The change in the change

It has been weeks since I felt untethered. Weeks since I crumbled into emotional dust. Weeks since I hated what I was becoming but couldn’t stop becoming it. I don’t know if the worst is behind me or still to come, but for now, I feel great. I think I may even be better than I was before: calmer, happier, more stable, more focused. I care less what people around me think and more about what I truly want.

So then why does walking through my neighborhood at 5:30, when the mommies are out in full force, pulling their kids toward home, still shake me at my core? Yesterday I went from feeling great to feeling dark in the course of 30 minutes and 15 Brooklyn blocks. It makes me crazy to feel invisible – a woman not admitted into the club everyone else belongs to – but I don’t think that is the real story any more.  There is a deeper reason why I can’t let the crazy feelings go, why I can’t stop the stabs of envy and sadness. It’s because with parenting, like so many other things, I did what I do so well – I walked away.

Why do I have so few friends from childhood, college, my 20s? Walked away instead of hanging in. Why has my career been a pinball machine? Walked away instead of challenging myself to grow. The first marriage? Walked. And why am I not a mother? Because I repeatedly gave up when the process of getting pregnant got too tough. When charting wasn’t working, I stopped — didn’t even try Clomid or acupuncture or anything my infertile ladies who really wanted a baby did — and told myself I couldn’t do it without Jeff’s support. Honestly, I was scared of failing and feeling alone and guilty for the one time I was pregnant and had an abortion. And later, when I wanted to get pregnant with Tom and discovered a (completely benign) brain tumor was reeking havoc with my hormones, I walked away again because I was scared again. This time of truly wanting to make a life with the man I love and not being able to do it. The fear of disappointment stopped me cold.  And the adoption? Another post for another day, but suffice it to say that if I really wanted to be a mom, I would have a child today. No question.

Walking away has been my defense against getting hurt, being left out or left behind. Of being disappointed or realizing I really am the nothing I think I am: unworthy and uninteresting and unlovable. That might be it. I walk away from love (of friends, of a child, of partners, of my potentially best self) because I don’t think I am worth any love. And I want to make sure to be gone once people realize that. So what now?

Two steps back

I found this in my drafts folder from last October. So much has changed since I wrote this, I am posting as a reminder that heavy days are temporary, but the mood swings caused by sugar are forever.

Life is funny. I’ve moved forward, thinking I got through some rough times and emerged on the other side to happier, lighter days, but then, inexplicably, I’m right smack dab back in the mire. Why is that? I am exercising, which creates good endorphins. And I haven’t quit, which makes me proud. I am working, though not at what I want to be doing, but working nonetheless. We’re still in the running for the house in the Catskills, overcoming obstacle after obstacle with a fair amount of grace. Tom and I are doing alright. It’s a rough patch, but we’re muddling through.

I have been feeling so left out of life lately because I am not a mom. Last night, we went to a birthday party for one of Tom’s friends and I felt so odd. The women there were either new moms or newly married and planning already for their kids. It’s difficult not to be defensive when I explain why we don’t have kids. And when someone asks, I definitely feel like I have to explain. Maybe women don’t give it another thought. Maybe they aren’t judging me at all. Maybe it’s all in my head because I feel less than great about our decision. I think I will always feel less than great about it. It is rough to be excluded from the mommy club, especially when there aren’t many people asking to spend time with us and New York isn’t a city I particularly want to go out in. Will it be different upstate? I hope so.

My malaise could also be a product of the massive amount of sugar I’ve been consuming. I drop down to nothing and feel vulnerable at the core after I eat candy, but I eat it anyway. Halloween is filled with so many memories and I want to keep making more, but it is a hard one when you are too old to go party and not able to enjoy as a parent. There must be another option. Tomorrow we are going on a hike, which I hope will shake out the cobwebs and negative feelings and flush the sugar swings. A bit of nature will help things out. It always does.

Mother’s Day

Today is Mother’s Day and I am rising above my sadness. Two years ago, I was sure that I would be well into being a mom by now. Last year, I thought it was still a possibility. This year, I am at peace with not being a mother, but I dreaded the day. There are no greeting cards or brunches for the “almost” mothers.

There are moments where I feel the absence of a child acutely. The other morning, while walking Rabito, a little boy was in the park with his mom. “Mommy…mommy…mommy,” he said. His mother said, “Yes, love?”, and I felt the loss deep in my belly. You could hear that she was his universe  – that she was the sun and moon to him – in the way he called to her. To know that I am not going to be on the other end of that love is sometimes painful. Not always, not usually, but sometimes.

It has been less than a year since Tom and I decided not to pursue adoption, and it has been a journey of acceptance that continues to unfold. I am so grateful that we went through the process and tried to become parents because, though it didn’t end up the way we thought, we bared our hearts to the Universe. To want something so much, to love a phantom, to dive into the unknown — these were gifts from Spirit. And to not break down or break up when the phantom didn’t become a reality and the dive was into dark, thick helplessness made us better partners and nicer human beings in the long(er) run.

There were a few months where I couldn’t look at parents walking down the street with their children, and in my baby-filled neighborhood, that was a problem. It seemed so unfair – so arbitrary – when I passed a heavily pregnant woman pushing a stroller holding a sleepy toddler, strolling next to her husband who was holding the hand of an adorable four year old going to dance class. Why her? Meanwhile, Tom and I had our little girl waiting for us in an orphanage in Moscow, but Putin had made it illegal for Americans to adopt Russian children, so we couldn’t go get her. And later attempts to adopt domestically felt forced and fake and not right. We had our daughter and she was taken from us before we got to love her. I was filled with resentment and envy and didn’t think to ask Spirit for help.

The good news is that Spirit doesn’t particularly care. Help is there. I didn’t get over my resentment, but I accepted it. It was unfair. It was arbitrary. It was also the path I was walking, and after a while, wanted to stop fighting. I had every reason to be resentful, but no business holding onto it. What good does envy do, out in the world? What good does bitterness do for a marriage? A friendship? Unbeknownst to me, Spirit planted the seeds of change inside my furrowed head. Lately, instead of wishing I was the mom, I try to be more supportive of the moms around me. I let myself laugh when I overhear a funny thing a kid says on the subway. I ask, “Do you have kids?” at cocktail parties — something I never did before because I didn’t want to have to answer the inevitable, “Do you?”

And that brings me to today. Mother’s Day. In keeping with the theme of this blog, I want to celebrate the women who rise as moms every day, those who continue the struggle to try and become moms and those who have found peace in childlessness. We can all shine by showing compassion for the others, whose journeys are different than our own and live the lives we may not have seen coming but have been gifted.