Bruised

I know I have touched upon infertility over the past year of writing, but many of my friends and acquaintances only know me now through my role as mom. For anyone, who has never experienced infertility, it is a unique journe, and a source of ongoing grief and trauma through one’s childbearing years. Even once a person has given up on the idea of every getting pregnant or giving birth, there are these monthly reminders of what could have been and isn’t. When I think about the things that have caused me to doubt God the most, it is infertility, and walking along side my son through trauma.

The background is that 10 years ago, my ex and I had been trying to conceive a baby for over a year and finally went through invasive and thorough testing to determine why it wasn’t happening for us. After all, we were young, seemingly healthy, happily married, so next logical step was to build a family together. Interestingly enough, the only indication that could be found for our inability to conceive was severe male-factor infertility, of unknown cause,with a very slim possibility of us ever being able to conceive without medical intervention. So, we began the physically painful and emotionally devastating year of IVF, and, 3 rounds later, finally gave up.

The problem, though, with being a 26-year-old married woman is that all your friends around you are starting families. So, while I was grieving the loss of my dream for motherhood, all my friends around me were popping kids out left and right. There was a period of time where I couldn’t go to baby showers, and even church could be triggering, as I was surrounded by pregnant bellies and babies. Meanwhile, I never gave up hope in a miracle for us and yet, every month I got a reminder of what wasn’t to be. It was only in the past few years that I have been able to celebrate the pregnancy of friends and family, with little challenge and true happiness for them.

I think a lot of people assume that when couples who cannot have children, adopt, that is the end of the grief over infertility. Fortunately, I approached adoption with eyes wide open, in that regards. I never expected my boys to fill the hole left by not being able to get pregnant. I adopted because I wanted to be a mom, but I knew I would still miss out on the experiences of pregnancy, breastfeeding, and cuddling an infant, and I accepted that. I also knew that my own experience gave me even greater capacity for walking with them in their own stories. Being their mom is one of the hardest jobs of my life, but also the greatest joys, but there is an inherent grief in adoption. Jody Lander’s summed up the conflict of being an adoptive mom the best:

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A lot of people reached out to me after my last post and I appreciate the concern. First off, what I want to say, is that often, when I write, it is in the moment. And there is a reason for that. First off, it is helpful for me to write when I am deep in the trenches with whatever is going on. Writing has allowed me to make coherent sense of my thoughts and feelings. Also, I think it is important for people to hear the feelings of people in the midst of the story. So often, things are written through the perspective of time and hindsight (as is some of my writing). For the most part, though, I write without the luxury of distance. For all those of us walking along side people through difficult stories, it is important to “hold space for the feelings” (said by a friend of mine) without trying to convince people that those feelings aren’t real or valid.

So, the reason for sharing all this, is that I am walking in a very difficult space right now and I am only touching on the edge of the story. This whole baby thing, reactivated a lot of my own trauma over my over infertility and brought some of those feelings from 10 years ago back to the surface. But now, I am having to process through them in the middle of trying to grieve through the end of my marriage and the upcoming anniversary of the day I found out my ex was cheating. Oh, and yes, I am still trying to be mom and walk alongside my sons as they try to process their own feelings and as we try to find our footing as a family of three. Don’t worry, we have a therapist to help!

People have expressed concern over my anger and bitterness with God. I have been walking a very hard journey for a decade and there have been glimpses of God’s grace and love, but I have spent many years feeling alone in my faith. I am not saying I am walking away, but lately I feel like my faith hurts. It hurts to see God bless other people while I am struggling. It hurts to hear people tell stories of God turning evil for good, when it isn’t my experience now. I will never understand why so many times God has answered my prayers by saying “no”. I know I have mentioned in the past, I love the show, Gilmore Girls. There is a scene in the end of season 6 that the words keep playing over in my head:

“So I am hanging on to the bumper and life goes on and the car goes on, and I get really badly bruised and I’m hitting potholes. And it hurts. It really hurts. So yesterday I had to let go of the bumper. Because it hurts too much.”

Some days, I just want to let go of the bumper because hoping that God will intervene, hurts too much. Yes, people can give me all the advice in the world, and all the anecdotal stories of people that have had God intervene greatly. But right now, right in this moment, I am badly bruised.

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Trauma-versary

The one-year anniversary of the day everything changed is rapidly approaching.  I can now see that the events that transpired on March 23, 2017, were traumatic and changed the course of my life.  The subtle reminders are there.  The weekend he left for “Comicon” (otherwise known as his scheduled weekend to consummate his affair) was the same weekend as my boys’ yearly March soccer tournament, which always gets re-scheduled do to weather.  That weekend is coming around next week, and the tournament has been re-scheduled, yet again.  When he left last year at this time I was anxious and uneasy and couldn’t put my finger on why.  I now know that deep down I knew something was wrong long before my mind new exactly what.    I am approaching this weekend with eyes wide open, but that doesn’t make it easier.  I am unsettled and anxious.  There is a pit deep down in my stomach.  I am sure they are approaching it as some sort of anniversary, while I am having to approach it as a trauma-versary, so to speak.

I am raising sons that have both experienced trauma as young boys, in losing their birth families, so I am familiar with what trauma is and how anniversaries of trauma can affect people in unusual ways.  I know that I need to give myself extra grace to grieve and emote. My head knows this stuff, which will allow me a little more control of the emotions, but that doesn’t make it easier.  A year ago, I was married, albeit starting to feel that something was wrong.  A year ago, I thought my husband had always been faithful to me and now I know how untrue that was.  A year ago, I envisioned raising our sons together and allowing him to pick up some extra slack so that I could finish grad school.  A year ago, I was able to support my family with our two incomes and now I struggle to get by on my salary with a small amount of child support.  A year ago, things were so very different from the current reality.

I suspect that for the rest of my life this time of the year will always bring out the before and after comparisons.  Right now, those are hard comparisons because the boys and I are in such a rough season.  I hope that eventually I will be able to see the “after” as the best part of my life.  I am not there yet.  I see the glimmers of what could be, but it is not yet a reality.  I am still hurting and grieving and raw.  Somedays, the events of last March wake me from sleep or bring me to my knees in tears.  I want to one day see myself as a strong, capable, woman, mother, and employee, but most days I feel like I keep dropping the pieces that I am juggling.

So, as I approach this trauma-versary, please give me grace.  I am trying to put the past in the past, but I also know the importance of allowing myself to feel through things rather than pretend everything is okay.  I know the next few weeks will be hard and triggering, but I must just live through them.  It has been a year of firsts, some good, some bad, but all necessary.

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The Last Tear

Something about having a free night or weekend to myself, seems to trigger emotional releases in me.  Today, I met my sister half-way to New York City, so the boys could spend the night with her, then cried most of the way home.  My boys are old enough that I have allowed them on some social media, but with that comes their dad.  As I am responsible for making sure their accounts are private and appropriate, I was confronted by the smiling images of my ex and the other woman.  Then, I saw the mutual friends and family who loved those images.  And now, here I sit, with an afternoon free and tears streaming down my face.

When you marry young, most of your friends end up mutual friends.  So, when 14 years later and the rug is pulled out from under you, suddenly everyone comes under suspicion.  I have had to learn who I can trust and those who are safe people.  This is hard to do, and even harder with family members.  I had hoped to maintain a relationship with my ex siblings-in-law, but I realized that I can no longer have people in my life who support my ex and the choices he has made, so today I made the painful decision to write them a note, but explain that I didn’t want them to choose me over their brother, so I was severing our relationship  I have known most of them most of their lives as they are all younger than my ex and I.  I honestly, though, couldn’t stomach the idea of them loving seeing pictures of the life he chose when he walked out the door on the boys and me.

Nine months in and the actions of the man who I chose to love, still bring me to my knees in grief and pain.  Many days, I just feel stuck, like I will never be through this.  Other days, I just wish I had a timeline on this grief, so I could see the end, how ever far it may be.  I am so emotionally exhausted, trying to parent well (and often failing), trying to work, trying to grieve, and trying to move one.  When, when, will I have shed my last tear over the actions of the man who broke my heart?

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Of Books, Dates, and Memories

Yesterday Bolt and I had a couple of hours to kill while someone was cleaning our house.  What to do with a quiet 13-year-old in sub-freezing temperatures on a holiday?  My initial thought was the library, until I realized it would be closed for the holiday.  He isn’t the type of kid who likes to sit and chat over a meal, so that option too was out.  A friend suggested we go hang out at Barnes and Noble, which he reluctantly agreed to do.  So, after getting a small breakfast sandwich we headed there.  At first, he didn’t seem to know what to do, but I helped guide him to the teen and comic sections while I went in search of travel books.  After browsing for a while, we sat down at a table and begin sorting through our chosen books.  Before we knew it two hours had flown by.  I let him pick a pair of comics to purchase and as we left the store he said, “I thought that would be boring, but it was actually kind of fun”.  He is a hard kid to please, but he also doesn’t ask for much, so this was a huge win for us to be able to spend a few comfortable hours in each other’s presence.  As we were leaving the store, I was struck by a wave of nostalgia.  Sitting for hours in Barnes and Noble pouring over books reminded me of the countless hours my ex and I spent doing the same thing when we were dating and early in our marriage.  My ex passed on his love for comics to both of our sons.  It was so strange to sit there with my son, doing something my ex and I used to do, while he is across the country creating a new life.  Oddly, though, the memory didn’t bring a wave a sadness or grief, but fondness.  I am not romanticizing anything, but this memory wasn’t entrenched in the lies of the past decade, but rather in the man I knew then…before…before infertility, before all the lies, before all the affairs.  It was a memory that I could dwell in without wondering what and who he was lying to me about.   Unfortunately, when the affair came to light, the affairs of the previous decade did as well, and for that reason, I really struggle with my memories with him.  However, there is the brief window of time – 4 or so years – that I can think about fondly.  So, as Bolt and I hopped in the car, I shared that memory with him too.  I want him to know that, while his dad hurt me deeply, I loved him and have some very pleasant memories and hopefully, one day, he will say the same.

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Band-aids on Bullet Holes

Looking for a cheery Christmas post?  Then stop, back away, and check back next month.  Last night I had major meltdown #98.  After weeks of hearing of all the grand plans that the boys have with their dad over Christmas break, I walked in to find one of them playing a video game online with one of other woman’s kids.  It felt like I had been slapped.  I had no idea that for months, my ex had been grooming the relationship with her kids and mine.  Yes, I am sure it is good that they won’t all be total strangers, but it caused everything to come crashing down.  My ex leaves me, in May and since then has bought a house, gotten her pregnant, gotten married, got an IPhoneX, and now he will have my sons for his “perfect family” over the holidays.  I, meanwhile, am going to a friend’s and will try to not make Christmas miserable for her family. It is just so hard to hear about the “perfect” life he is living, all the while I cannot seem to get through the grief.

I told a friend last night that it s like a cavernous bullet wound.  Nine months ago, I got shot and that bullet has never been out, rather just meandering through my body and causing problems when I least expect it.  Yes, some people might say that God “has been faithful” and is providing relief in the form of friends helping fix broken windows or helping with the kids or a sitter that has not quit.  But, honestly, I feel like it is really just band-aids on the bullet wound.  It is like God is tossing me the leftovers just to make me shut up about everything for a few days.

I am tired of this grief just stopping me in my tracks.  I am tired of trying to keep my sh** together and failing.  I am tired of my kids seeing me cry.  And before you all throw out “you need to see a therapist”, I have…two different ones.  One just sat and listened by did nothing to help me grieve and the other one kept having me do tasks and I felt worse and more like a failure every appointment.  The reality is that this whole scenario is just so bizarre, it sounds like something out of a bad book or movie, but it is what I live with every day.  And I have yet to find a therapist that is able to help me work through it without making me feel like every time I lose it, I have failed my sons and am screwing them up.  I am going to try and start Divorce Care in the new year, but I risk going into that with even too messy of a story for a group setting.

So, tomorrow I will place my sons on a plane, ask for a hug, and be denied one, because, yeah, my sons won’t even hug me anymore.  I will be lucky to get a mumbled “love you” and then will likely try and call them every day and get a 2-minute conversation, if they answer at all.  I am not being a pessimist, but I do know my sons.  Then, while everyone is celebrating Christmas with family and the birth of the savior, I will be struggling to hold it all together all the while feeling like there is something very wrong with me that has lead up to the events of the last year.  So, whatever, bring on another band-aid, when I need a lot more than that.

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The Holiday Doldrums

It has been a while since I have written and part of it is at risk of becoming a broken record.  I wish I could say the past few weeks have been good or at least uneventful, but it isn’t just the case.  We seem to vacillate between mini disasters and chaos with my own meltdowns thrown in for good measure.

Both boys are struggling, with one able to verbalize and externalize his anger while the other holds it in with contempt for me while pretending nothing has changed.  We have reached the point that I am in the process of getting more services to help the boys and myself.  I started going to DivorceCare to work be around other people who have been through similar experiences.  But, as my therapist said, “your story will usually win”.  Believe me, this is not some contest you want to win and when I sit back and detach from this story, it feels too much to be true.  But, alas, true it is, and there is a lot to it that I have not even written bout.

I have worked on building some new traditions for the boys and myself.  Some have been flops (the Elf on the Shelf where we all take turns), and others have been big successes.  I have been filling their advent calendars with coupons for fun things or breaks from chores and other small treats.  That has been fun to create that little excitement every day.  At the same time, Messi has really dug into his atheism and refuses to acknowledge any part of the Christmas story.

One of the greatest challenges of this past few weeks is the anticipation the boys have regarding their upcoming trip to see their dad.  Messi is counting down the days and knows all the grand plans.  Bolt is tentatively excited, but nervous and confronting his own issues with his dad.  It has been over eight months since they have seen him, and a lot has changed for everyone.  As for myself, facing the holiday without my sons and knowing that January could be rough…well that has me a mess of emotions.

The past week has seen me yelling and on my knees sobbing on the floor, sitting through church services with tears flowing, and overwhelmed.  I haven’t had a working kitchen sink since Friday due to a drain clog and I have a door with a missing plate glass after an accident by Bolt.  I have had help from unexpected sources, but at the end of the day it is the boys and I and we are a mess right now.  I am looking forward to making it through this holiday and picking them up at the airport knowing that this first is over.  Until then, I will try to relish the quiet warmth of winter – warm heat, chilly days, and the stillness of snow.

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When Thankfulness is Hard

It is the first major holiday as a family of three.  The winter holidays, particularly Thanksgiving and New Christmas occupy a special place in my heart.  I love cooking and gifts and Christmas music and curling up under a blanket. I have approached this season with a heavy heart.  Knowing that it was this time last year that my my ex began a journey that would lead to him walking out of our lives, has made me rethink every moment of last year’s holiday season.  So, as today is the day we pause and reflect on what we are Thankful for, my thankfulness is often through the fog of tears.

Oddly, I am thankful that the decision to divorce was not left up to me.  I am now able to see with clarity that I probably would have never left my marriage, no matter how insignificant I became.  And due to the circumstance of how it all went down, the custody battle was non-existent, for which I am grateful.

I am thankful that despite everything, the boys and I were able to keep things somewhat normal.  We stayed in our home and they have the same schools and sports teams.  We kept our dogs, and even one of the cats made a strange journey back to us.

I am so very blessed that God knew what my heart needed and basically dropped a group of friends and an amazing church community into my lap when I needed it the most.  I remember crying out in prayer that there was no way I could stay here because I felt so alone and disconnected from my community.  It was like God stepped in and met one of my greatest needs

Lastly, I am thankful for the gift of my sons.  The journey to learn how to parent them alone has been hard.  We are in the middle of a challenging season with the combination of teen boy hormones, grief, and trauma.  There are days I don’t think I can or want to parent them.  But, guess what, at the end of the day, we are still a family and as hard as it is, they are everything to me and I am grateful for the gift of being their mom.

So, yes, being thankful is hard this  year.  My grief and joy are strange bedfellows.  I am trying to keep my expectations low knowing that we are all very raw this year.  But, Bolt, Messi, and I are showing up every day to live, to laugh, to fight, and to love.

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