Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The sorting game

Sunday night, Grey and I had a long conversation with my uncle and aunt. Passing the phone back and forth to one another, even though it was on speaker, we talked with both of them about the condo (we fired our management company!!!!; more on that soon), Cyrol drama, updating them about the Beats (both kids were so excited to talk with them) and about how we were doing in general. The conversation was an easy one and when it was time to say good-night, both Grey and I were feeling good.

Given all the drama from this past weekend, I've been reflecting on why my interactions with my uncle and aunt are so seamless in comparison. What is it about this relationship that leaves both Grey and me feeling safe to interact independently? Grey and I talked about it yesterday, reflecting on it all. Trying to work out what we can do to get there with the rest of family.

My relationship with all of Grey's family has been strained for several years now. Part of this was due to wariness from the start. Prior to us dating, Grey had been in a relationship with a woman where she actively tried to separate him from his family. Being young and in love, combined with some additional factors of inclusion into a new group of people who were incredibly supportive of his choices to follow in their footsteps, he found himself slowly drawing away from them. Luckily he didn't marry this woman, ultimately cutting all ties with these people (even though they still stalk him to this day), but the unspoken hurt has remained that no one has really addressed. So from the beginning they were suspicious. Would I do the same thing, separating him from them? To counteract that, I made an extra effort to show that I wouldn't. I called my MIL regularly, made a point of pushing for us to spend holidays with the family, ganged up on Grey when his sister chose to marry a guy who seemed way too interested in promoting his values over SILs, would go on to knit baby blankets for the then niece and nephews and even flew out with Grey to support his brother Lucas after his twins were born and they were in crisis.

Then infertility hit. And I struggled. I struggled as my MIL would talk on and on about her grandbabies during our conversations, knowing full well about our diagnosis. I struggled as holidays were being spent with the in-laws gathering on a different coast with the expectation that if we wanted to be included we had to fly out. I struggled greatly with this news. And this incident. So a wall went up as I didn't feel safe expressing how much I hurt. Even when I did with David's encouragement, it felt like it all fell short. Resolution never happened.

The wall didn't go away. During my whole pregnancy, I bucked a lot of the bonding my MIL wanted to do over the pending arrival of the Beats. We only saw them once while I was pregnant, with me finding ways to spend as little time with them. An offer of a baby shower by Grey's sister was immediately dismissed, largely due to my fear that doing so would jinx the pregnancy. The Sip & See proposed for later lead was ultimately a complete disaster. But the kicker came the day I was admitted to Chateau L&D. Grey's mother had also booked plane tickets out to see her other grandchildren. Calling to insist that she would cancel the trip, Grey reassured her that it wasn't necessary as we would likely be going home. But I knew he was in denial. As I watched the doctors and nurses, I knew the Beats would be making an early arrival. When she talked to me, I told her to go; to take that trip out to see her other grandchildren. And with that she not only missed their birth but was also kept away for almost a month as they were in NICU.

Over the past three years, there's been slow attempts to heal. Appreciation for gifts received was always made known and I tried resuming conversations with MIL. I even wrote Lucas a brief email apologizing for my past behavior and thanking him and his wife for all the clothes they were sending us. But during that first year, my uncle and aunt became very involved with helping us with the Beats. Weekly visits happened, with them giving us some much needed relief (usually in the form of sleep for me) and company while also helping with housework and providing meals. It was with my uncle and aunt that the Beats grew into toddlers, hitting those first milestones under their care and support. And though my in-laws were never actively excluded, the distance meant they missed all of that while they were aware that the Beats had gained another set of grandparents.

There's another level, though. One that I've struggled with. Lucas's wife is a woman who is easily described as a sweetheart. Getting pregnant for them always only took a month of trying (they have conceived their twins on their honeymoon) and they made a point of requesting MIL's help since the beginning. As much as I hate myself for this, there has been jealousy. Even after the Beats arrived and despite Grey's countering, I've felt that I've been tolerated while this woman has been embraced as part of the family. I'm outside looking in.

Over the past few days, following all the scars hurting and this new knowledge about MIL's confession, I've been reflecting on what I want moving forward. Knowing now that we're at a point where conversations have to start happening and things need to be hashed out. Because I'm tired of feeling like I fall short all the time. That somehow I'm less and am trying to keep Grey from them. Granted I have my role to play in all of this. But just as they have had their reasons, I've had mine. I had to protect my heart and my sanity.

The irony of all of this is I've witnessed what happens when complex issues like this go unresolved. My mother has an older sister who is estranged from the family. Years upon years of feuding and old hurts where they can't be in the same room as one another. The last time was at my grandfather's funeral. Watching all of them interact, never addressing the hurts directly but instead playing their respective roles, I truly wondered if I was witnessing a soap opera being filmed. More to the point, as angry as my aunt with every person in that room (24 total), it was me that she did well with. Me because I confronted her, made it clear that I would respect her as long as she respected me and actually took an interest in some of the things her husband was working on. Those witnessed interactions between this estranged aunt and I have become family legend with them all clueless as to why she did so well with me. The idea that this aunt was lashing out because she was hurting and that maybe, just maybe, peace could come through empathy, has been so profoundly foreign to all of them.

All this said, I still have no idea how to proceed forward. Mainly because this is still Grey's family and I don't want to push him into doing something he doesn't agree with. But also because with how complex all of this is, I'm still trying to figure it all out. A sorting game if you will. Emotions are high at the moment. Any misstep is likely to set off so many bombs. And I'm terribly afraid. But, like with my parents, it's time. So we play the game.

Any suggested moves would be greatly appreciated.

Monday, August 22, 2016

#MicroblogMondays: Boom!

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

Ever hear the saying "bad things come in threes?" The first blow is always followed by a second and then the inevitable closure punch. It leaves you reeling and filled a large knot of negative emotions. 

This weekend was one of those instances. Though nothing life-altering, it has rocked both Grey and me. 

First the news that MIL was doing an extended visit of BIL's family. I'll admit I was hurt that her summer trip is solely being spent visiting them, bringing back the memories of during infertility of travel plans that always excluded us. 

Then came the unexpected, late night phone call from BIL to Grey. He got a new job, leading to the relocation back to the West Coast. Though this is good news for them, it reminds me too much of this instance with how it was delivered. More scars revealed.

And then the final bit of news came this morning with a letter from Cyrol addressed to me, following on the heels of a letter for MB. All twisted and signs of an obsessed person who needs so much help and likely won't get it. So my morning is now going to be spent contacting law clinics and the police as it's time for a restraining order. Because we know that his family won't take action unless he is put in jail, as right now the legal system doesn't have reason to declare him mentally unfit. 

I've been struggling with all of this. Numb to Cyrol (I had my "of course" moment this morning), but struggling also with the mix of emotions with the other news. Learning that MIL confessed to Grey she feels like we don't want her to be part of our lives. Scars for a relationship Grey went through years before he met me and yet things that have added to the isolation we've felt. There's also the feelings of jealousy that BIL has the opportunity. Granted it's not one that Grey or I would ever consider (BIL is a good fit), but there's financial security that comes with this for them. The unfairness of the perceived inequality of resources.

Today is being spent putting it all back together. Analyzing why these feelings exist and figuring out how to heal and come to peace. Remembering to breathe deeply even though my lungs burn after being pushed underwater.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Human Connection

This post was inspired by Mali's recent post. If you haven't already read it, click over and have a read.

In 2009, the stop-motion animation movie Mary and Max was released. Stop-motion is something I've learned to appreciate with age (think Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run), so I was surprised how quickly this movie grabbed my attention. The story is about a lonely little girl who establishes a pen pal relationship with a middle-aged man who has Asperger's syndrome. The story unfolds as over the years their relationship grows and changes, hitting emotional mountains along the way. It was the ending that got me, though. Despite all the trials and tribulations, this moment where Mary visits Max, only to find he has died hours before, revealed the power of human connection and lifelong friendship.



Like so many introverted geeks, I struggle to find human connections; kindred spirits I seemingly click with. I always assumed that this stemmed from not having much of a connection within my own family and that I had failed to develop the necessary skill set to foster relationships. Hence I'm one that has always had a small circle of friends, focusing instead of the quality of the relationship vs. the quantity. And in general, I've learned to be comfortable with being alone.

Mali's post has me wondering though. Is this lack of human connection actually inhibited due to family? Have we been programmed from a young age to embrace family over all else? If so, is that part of the reason that infertility is so painful? A dual loss not only of potential family, but also the one at present as we become outsiders looking in. The added trauma of having to build human connections when one is unsure where to start.

When I began blogging about my journey through infertility, I found I was in the minority when it came to family involvement. Sure, most people weren't overly open with their journeys, but through reading it seemed that most had the support of parents and loved ones, even if it was more peripheral. In my case my family was completely cut off, leaving me struggling to find any source of support as I was grieving that loss. I was fortunate from the beginning to find the support I did through this space. To find my tribe. But this issue surfaced again just before the Beats were born. There was a disconnect about me not sharing this news with my family that many struggled to wrap their heads around.

The story of Mary and Max gets at the heart of this for me. With my family, I was a black sheep. So finding a human connection elsewhere, usually with strangers, became natural. In a weird way, it did prepare me finding my tribe within the ALI community. Shared pain and uncertainty do created a lot of bonding.

What I never considered, though, was that for many this sudden distance with family could actually be terrifying. That as Mali pointed out, most deep connections may be restricted to family and shared only within family. Making the mantra "blood is thicker than water" take on a whole new level and, as Mali pointed out, all the more traumatic when seemingly lost. And maybe, just maybe, that's one piece of information those who have never experienced infertility and loss ever really consider: the possibility of losing the human connections we know and have fostered simply because of the failure to relate.

Monday, August 15, 2016

#MicroblogMondays: Messages of love

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

It's early in the morning when I notice I have two unread text messages on my phone. One is from my dad thanking me for the video of the Beats splashing around in puddles left over from a recent storm. The second one is from Grey. A longer message containing some lyrics about love and how even in the dark moments it's worth it.

While in the thick of infertility, Grey and I struggled to find ways to connect and express our love for one another. One night, after a particularly painful episode, he sent me an email titled "This helps me." And with that, a new way of communicating began. Quotes or song lyrics or even short notes on Post-its. It became our way of connecting and reminding one another we were in this together.

Down through the years we've had hard times and tears
But they only helped our love grow
And we'll stay together no matter how strong the wind blows

Not once have I seen your blue eyes filled with envy
Or stray from the one that you hold
Oh, true love travels on a gravel road

Love is a stranger and hearts are in danger
On smooth streets paved with gold
Oh, true love travels on a gravel road
Yeah, true love travels on a gravel road

~Elvis Presley

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Baby steps

Over the weekend my parents came for a visit. Brief recap for those not in the know, this visit was the first time I have seen my parents in 5 years. It was also the first time they met the Beats. So one can begin to imagine the emotional land mine Grey and I have been sitting on top of.

The long and the short of it is that overall it went well. My parents did a good job of mostly respecting boundaries (my mother struggling a bit with this one) and they were both immediately taken with the kids. The Beats clearly didn't know what to make of the situation, but they warmed over the weekend and were offering hugs at the end.

On our end, Grey and I have really been processing all of it. The distance, both physically and emotionally, has allowed us to be in a unique position of seeing things for what they actually are. To see how insecure my mother is not only with herself but also the world around her. It's actually quite sad because she does have this need to control in order to find comfort and it makes me reflect on her life in general and how lacking in control she must feel. Staying in her comfort zone is key. Recognizing this made me reflect more on how I deal with uncertainty (lots of anxiety) and how that impacts not only me but those around me. So a lot of inner reflection has come from this.

All that said, Grey and I do see a road forward. Though travel is out of the question for now, video chats will be scheduled. Though my parents don't know exactly where we live, we're getting to a point where we're feeling comfortable sharing that information. And boundaries are being set with good behavior being rewarded to enforce this and bad behavior being confronted. In short, it's a work in progress. Baby steps being the theme, both for healing and for moving forward.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Quantifying love

Yesterday I received a text message from dear friends informing us that their beloved cat Tigger had passed away. The message was a simple one: "Some last shot of our old man - he was ready to go. It's awfully quiet in our home" combined with some photos. I teared up immediately as I scrolled through. You see, I loved Tigger too.

The bond between Tigs and me formed years ago over a night of grading. Working my way through 210 exams, he was watching me carefully, answering the questions I was asking to myself with a gruff meow. At one point, I came upon an exam where the student had answered the question by drawing a picture of a coconut tree. Angrily asking "WTF!!" Tigs responded by slamming his paw down on the exam and meowing as if to say "that's right!" The next day, I turned in my stack of graded exams to the instructor, most of them covered in fur. And Tigs earned the title "Professor," becoming a beloved grading companion.

There's been a lot of emotions surrounding this news, especially with the responses to my friends. Some are kind and filled with empathy. Others say things like "he had a good run," which leaves me hurt and a bit angry. Those messages have triggered memories of comparisons of loses. The quantifying of pain.

***************

For as long as I can remember, there's a value and definition put on love with some instances being seen as more important and worthwhile than others. The love between parent and child, love between partners, love within family, love of friends and, at the bottom, love of animals. We encourage all types of love, make no mistake. But when one half of that relationship is suddenly gone, either through death or the relationship ending, grief is immediately quantified based on the type of love. We also judge others based on the types of love they have experienced. Hence it's become a measure.

Worst yet, is when one type of love is used to silence others. In this community, we've all heard the stories about those who conceive easily informing the infertile person watching about how they can't possibly understand love because they don't have children. But the same is done time and again with losses. Early miscarriages are seen as being less painful as the potential child was just an idea. Or how never experiencing a pregnancy isn't as painful as experiencing a miscarriage. Pets come into play here often too. A beloved companion is lost and the grief is immediately minimized solely because they weren't human.

Yet I wonder, what right have we to quantify love? Speaking from experience, I know that the love I have for Grey is different than that I have for the Beats and also different from what I have for Jaxson and Daisy. But it's not less. One is not better or more important. And so it brings me back to why there's this need to quantify and qualify it. Why do people outside looking in care so much?

**************

Years ago, I lost two beloved cats within 3 months of one another. Sawyer, a polydactyl grey tabby, was just 2 years old when he was struck by a car. He came home, laid in my roommates bed for most of the day. And when it was time, he made his way outside to his sunny spot. I found him a day later and in addition to absolute sadness, was filled with guilt that he died without me there. 3 months later, Kali ran away after Grey and I moved across town. I searched for her for weeks, filled with more grief and guilt as I knew she was trying to make her way back home.

It's been over 12 years since I lost them both. Yet the grief remains. Held in check by those who told me that losing them wasn't as terrible as losing family or a loved one. But I can tell you, after now burying my beloved grandfather, estrangement from my whole family, 2 miscarriages, failed treatments and even losing friends, it still hurts. It's not any less.

*************

To my dear Professor Tigger,

I will miss you dearly my friend. Until we meet again on the other side of Rainbow Bridge. And if you see Kali and Sawyer, tell them I'm sorry and love them. And I hope to see them again too.




Monday, August 8, 2016

#MicroblogMondays: New beginnings

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.


~ And suddenly you just know: It's time to start something new and trust the magic of new beginnings.
- Meister Eckhart
 
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