Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Dangers of Hope

The sky threatened to snow, but it was only half serious about it.  Tiny flakes sputtered sporadically and looked more like dandruff than magical snow.  Grey clouds added beautiful contrast to the glowing morning sky and the shadowed mountains took on a more dramatic look than their usual, plain, yellow shrubbery.  My surroundings were brilliant.  I couldn't help but think that there was a reason for the brilliance.

That had been happening a lot lately; me looking for meaning in everything.  In fact, just a few hours earlier, I had decided to indeed put on a full face of make up, straighten my hair, and put on real clothes.  So I disrobed of my yoga pants and Matisyahu t-shirt and put on skinny jeans, boots, and a nicer shirt.  I was full of anticipation that in a very short while I would find out officially that I was to finally be a real mom.  You can't look like a slob on the day you find that out.

The thirty minute drive to the clinic felt miserable.  For a few minutes I would be calm and hopeful and even sure that the news would be good.  The test would show as positive.  I had done all the right things, not just to get pregnant, but in life.  I looked back on my life and made a mental list, that I shared with the glorious sky, of why I deserved to receive this miracle; this miracle aided by science and desperation.  All at once, just as quickly as the sky changed too, I had darker thoughts.  During the last three years I had not received one thing that I wanted or needed or pleaded or waited for so why now?  I started to cry a little, anticipating bad news and what that would mean.  It would mean that today would not be the day that I looked in the mirror and knew I would be a mother.  It meant considering going through all of this again.  It would mean having to have hope again.

For the past two weeks I was instructed to go home, take it easy, and just 'know' that I was pregnant.  So I did.   I stopped taking ibuprofen and Zyrtec, ceased eating or drinking anything on the list the internet provided for pregnant ladies, didn't go through scanners at the airport and everyday I looked at the picture of our microscopic embryo and just 'knew' it would grow.  I shared with my friends and family and I had hope.

Hope is difficult for me.  Hope equals vulnerability.  You can't brush it off.  Once you are publicly hopeful, people know if things don't work out that you are sad.  They pity you.  If there's one thing more difficult for me than having hope, it's being pitied.  I prayed that this would turn out right, not just to avoid being pitied but because I truly wanted my shot at raising a family. Also, I wanted to give my husband his second chance at parenting with someone who would stand unified with him and create a healthy family dynamic.

At the clinic, I signed in.  My hand shook as I wrote.  I took a deep breath and decided it was okay to be excited and nervous.  It would be positive, I just knew it.  Well, maybe.  No, it would, it would.  breathe  Before I was called back for the blood draw I decided I should use the restroom.  Having frequented the clinic weekly and sometimes daily over the last few months, I made my self at home and entered the back of house to find the restroom.

Blood.  Blood everywhere.  How could I not have known this was happening during my drive?  I was too caught up in my own head.  Oh that sharp pain?  Probably a sign that there's life.  That hot burning feeling?  Probably normal.  Nausea?   Early pregnancy sickness.  It had to be.  Luckily the restroom in an IVF clinic is equipped with everything a woman needs in a situation like this and I was wearing a long wool coat so I could hide what had happened when faced with people.  I shook.  I grabbed the handle of the door and couldn't bring myself to open it.  If I left the room, I thought, then it's real.  I have to tell someone.

Of all the things I 'knew' that day, the only time I was confident was in the restroom.  I knew there was no pregnancy.  I burst through the door and into the hallway where I collided with a nurse, Natalie.  She was my favorite nurse, actually.  She could tell that I was on the verge of crying and asked if I was okay and I couldn't speak.  I leaned against the wall with my face in my hands and shook my head and then I was pulled into a nearby office.  Behind closed doors, I squeaked, "There's blood." Natalie rattled off statistics. Sometimes this doesn't mean anything.  11%.  Take the test anyway.  Then, she gave me a shot of progesterone, just in case.

I took the blood test and thought for a moment, Maybe it's fine, I hoped.  They said they would call me before noon with the results.  I called my husband.  I texted my friends and my mom.  My mom called me.  I drove, stunned, and then would burst into tears, and then I would stop- repeat.  Once at home, I focused on work.  I knocked out everything I could, crying all the while and then received the call.

"Hi, it's Natalie.  We ran your test first, as soon as you left.  Are you doing okay?"

"Mmmm hmmm."

"I don't have good....news.  I wish I did..."

She said other things I didn't even want to think about at the moment.  Things that included scheduling an appointment, going through the process again, and that sometimes this happens.

"Do you have any questions?"


I couldn't bear to do the formal ending of a phone call.  Okay, you too.  Have a good day.  Bye.  So, I just hung up.  Natalie would understand.

Hope is dangerous because it can shatter you.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

For My Aunt Janice: Two Years Later

Your broken body cannot weather the years your youth longs to spend 
    So go down graceful 

    Sleep with the angels, and wake up whole again 

    'It was not your time'  
    That's a useless line 
    A fallen world took your life 
    But the God that sometimes can't be found will wrap himself around you
    So lay down, sister, lay down

-Bebo Norman

She greeted me with a smile as she physically strained to pull her blankets higher, tucked under her chin.  She didn't look like herself, her shell was weak and small.  I sat at her bedside hesitantly, realizing she was not just sick, she was dying.  I had planned this visit to say good-bye because I was moving to Idaho in two weeks and was not sure when I would be back for a visit.  And she was sick.  I didn't know she was dying.  

She didn't look like herself but when she greeted me, her beautiful brilliance shone through.  Her eyes were a little brighter as she said, "Hello, Dearie."  She would have hugged me but she was cold so I put my hand on her shoulder ever so gently and told her it was okay.  In true form, she was not focused on herself, rather she wanted to hear about my engagement, upcoming marriage, and I showed her my ring.  We talked for about 5 minutes and I could tell she was getting worn out so I said good-bye and I love you and left the room.  

Seeing her and realizing she wasn't just sick, she wasn't just weak and recovering, left me in shock.  I managed to spend the afternoon with her family and not break down and then Hospice arrived.  Hospice came in and set up.  She was dying soon.  How could I not have known?  I still struggle with some guilt from that.  

My last moments with her were sweet.  I left a letter with her husband to read to her later, that I knew she didn't have the energy for while I was there.  The letter was about her.  It was about all she had done for me, unknowingly.  It was what I wanted her to know before I moved 1,500 miles away but it ended up being what I wanted her to know before she left us.

I have been trying to write about her for two years.  She passed away two years ago today.  I have six drafts and each starts differently.  Each says too much and not enough.  I have this analogy in my head that when she died, I sustained a wound.  The wound is healing very slowly.  It hasn't started to clot.  The bleeding has stopped, but it's still open and requires a bandage.  As time has progressed, the wound has become part of me.  I am used to cleaning it, babying it, ignoring it; it's normal now but sometimes it festers.  Sometimes just the reminder of saying good-bye, sometimes the memory of her in my life, sometimes something insignificant reminds me of how much I miss her.  I'm reminded of how much I miss seeing her with my Uncle, with my cousins, in the pew on the other side of the church, at family functions. I miss her comments on facebook and that she used to read this blog and encourage me to write.  I miss that she is on the earth with us.  

I received the call the day after I said good-bye to her.  I was driving home.  My route redirected to her home where I embraced my cousin, her youngest son, in a desperate attempt to remain calm but to also try to transfer his pain to me, which didn't actually work, but I wish it had. 

I spent the whole rest of the night, into the early hours of the morning with aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents.  I couldn't help but feel a little thankful that I was able to say good-bye, to spend time mourning with my family, and attend her memorial service  before I moved away.  

For feeling thankful, I felt guilty.  I wish she would have recovered.  It wasn't her time.  Two years later, I mourn differently.  She has met her Creator.  She isn't in any pain.  I am happy for that but find it difficult that a disease took her incredible spirit from us.  The finest moment, no man can measure, is to look your Savior in the eyes. 

Rita, by Bebo Norman

Lay down softly in our sorrow
Lay down sister to die
And cover over, my sweet Father
Cover over her eyes

Your broken body, it cannot weather
The years your youth still longs to spend
So go down graceful, sleep with the angels
And wake up whole again

'Cause it was not your time; that's a useless line
A fallen world took your life

But the God that sometimes can't be found
Will wrap Himself around you
So lay down, sister, lay down

Slower passing are the hours
To tell this tale that takes it's time
But the finest moment, no man can measure
Is to look your Savior in the eyes

So take her tender to Your table
Take her from this killing floor
To taste the water that is forever
Let her be thirsty no more

It was not her time; that's a useless line
A fallen world took her life

But the God that sometimes can't be found
Will wrap Himself around you
So lay down, sister, lay down

And the God that sometimes can't be found
Will wrap Himself around you
So lay down, Sister, lay down