Archive for the ‘heavy’ Category

Sufficient Unto This Day

April 22, 2009

Last week, I almost quit blogging. Almost.

I wasn`t going to say anything about it. If I had quit, I would have gone totally silently into that good blogless night. There wouldn`t have been a post angsting about whether or not to quit; there wouldn`t have been a post proclaiming some long goodbye. I was just not ever going to post again. Which, I know, is kind of douchey, but still.

I was not going to post again, because the imperative to post was hurting my heart and making me crazy in a week during which I felt, strongly, that I simply could not post, that it would be wrong to post, that it would be wrong, somehow, to even Twitter all the fears and anxieties that I was struggling to contain. I wanted to write, but my preferred forum for writing was closed to me, or so I felt. I ached to write, to write anything, even just 140 characters proclaiming my fear; my fingers twitched, desperate to tap messages into my phone as we circled Emilia’s bed in the hospital, as we fretted and worried and paced. I am so scared, I typed, I am so scared. And then my fingers retracted their message, backspaced, deleted, and I resumed my pacing, my worrying. What could I possibly accomplish, publishing my fear? And how hollow, how terribly, selfishly, hollow to whine vacantly into the void when others were living and sharing darker fears. Realizing darker fears, the worst fears. What would I be doing, to add my own selfish anxieties to that chorus of pain?

No pain is hollow, of course. Seeing my daughter slumped and incoherent, eyes sunken in dark sockets, skin white and hot, was terrifying and horrible and I felt my anxiety in every moment as a strangling hurt, a terrible pressure against my lungs and throat that threatened to cut off my breath. But that was only my hurt, my fear, and although I know that every parent understands how terrible that hurt and how horrible that fear, it was not the time to share it, it was not the time to reach out. It was simply not the time.

Which invites the question: is it ever the time? This is a rhetorical question, of course, because, yes, yes, there is always a time for expressing and sharing fear or anxiety or sadness or all of these together. If we never shared these experiences, we would not know that they are common, ordinary even. We would not know that pain is something that we all live through. We would not know that it is something that we share. And we would never be able to find community in and through our pain, if we didn`t express it, share it.

But doesn`t sharing the pain, sometimes, just exascerbate it? Doesn’t it become, sometimes, a sort of twisted indulgence, a way of lingering in an ache and prolonging the sensation of hurt, in the same manner as scratching compulsively at an itch, even though it causes us bleed? If I write my hurt, am I expunging it or clinging to it? And if I draw others into my circle of anxiety, does it serve to comfort all of us – by underlining how common the experience – or does it serve to discomfit all of us – by making the experience common, by forcing others to live it, vicariously? Do I want community, or do I want attention? Can these two desires even be distinguished?

My anxiety about writing through my fear last week reduced to these three concerns – that I wanted to write because I wanted to wallow in that fear, that by wallowing, publicly, in my fear I’d be forcing others to experience that fear (in a week when fear and pain were already in too great supply) and that my writing/wallowing might be construed as attention-seeking (look! look! I hurt too! come see my pain!) – and these conspired to shut me down. And so shut down I did: I unplugged my computer and disabled e-mail on my phone and resolved that the only writing that I would do would be with pen and paper and kept entirely private. And then I cried. A lot. Because blogging has, in the worst of times, been a lifeline for me, a way of working through the pain and fear of struggling with depression and with the challenges of motherhood and with the general anxieties and regrets of a life well lived and with the looming spectre of death. And so the thought of abandoning it – of being abandoned by it – was terrifying, gut-wrenching.

And so I decided to not decide. I would simply not write about my pain that week, and hope that I would somehow grow an ability write light-heartedly and humorously so that I might not be so often an agent for spreading dark and gloom across the internets. And then Monday came and Emilia seemed better and so there was something happy to say – Emilia seems better! – and so I opened my computer and said it and the universe didn`t collapse in on itself, so. Baby steps.

I still don`t know how I`ll handle writing about Tanner, whose condition is worsening, and about how I`m going to explain the fact of his inevitable death to Emilia (something that becomes ever more pressing with every question she asks about his disabilities), and about lost siblings and hurt parents and depression and darkness and faith and all those terrible, difficult things that seem to have become my stock in writing trade. I just don`t know. I do know that I will write about them, sooner rather than later, just as I know that I will, someday – later rather than sooner – stop writing this blog. But I`m not going to worry about those things now.

For now, I`m just going to keep writing, and see what happens.

You can tell me, honestly – is there such a thing as oversharing hurt? Do I do it? Do I need – do we all need – to bring less angst and more happy? DOES THE INTERNET NEED MORE UNICORNS? I think maybe.

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Abortion Means Never Having To Say You’re Sorry

March 25, 2009

“She only saw him once.

Once, from behind the window of the nursery. He was wrapped in a blue blanket, and he was oh so small. They asked her if she wanted to hold him, and she said no. Just as she had in the delivery room, right after he was born, when she had squeezed her eyes shut so that she wouldn’t see him, her heart, the heart that she was giving away. She said no.

No.

It would have killed me, she said. It would have killed me. I couldn’t have gone on. I loved him.

So she said no. She refused to hold her son.”

I was holding my own son – then just two and a half months old – on my lap when my mother told me this story. I would be stating the obvious if I said that I clutched him a little tighter as I listened to her words and watched the tears brim in her eyes, but I’ll state it anyways: I held him, tightly, and my heart ached to think of not holding him. My heart ached to bursting at the thought of not holding him, of giving away any opportunity to hold him. And then my heart ached some more, because I had, once upon time, done something that, in some respects, amounts to the same thing.

When an anonymous poster made a plea, last week, for everyone to pause and consider the emotional fallout from adoption – this within the context of debates concerning the emotional consequences of abortion – I immediately thought of my mother and the gut-wrenching turmoil she experienced as a result of giving up a child for adoption. And then I thought of myself, and of the secret inner dialogue that I conducted with myself while she and I sat discussing that boy, that child that she had given up for adoption years before I was born. The secret inner dialogue that went something like this:

Me: Oh, my god, my god, how terrible, how heartbreaking, how did her heart survive it?

Myself: How did YOUR heart survive it?

Me: Survive what?

Myself: Abortion.

Me: That’s so different.

Myself: It’s not.

Me: The heartbreak of giving up a child…

Myself: Isn’t abortion a kind of ‘giving up’? Except, you know, MORE FINAL?

Me: Yeah, but…

Myself: But what?

Me: She’s mourning a child that she lost, a child who is still out there somewhere.

Myself: Exactly.

I clutched Jasper to my chest and squeezed and thought about the child who is not out there somewhere. A little part of my heart collapsed in on itself.

My mother’s heartbreak was almost unbearable to absorb. Her guilt, her worry, her desire to both know and not know whether he’d been given a happy life, whether she’d done right by him to give him up. She insisted that there was no regret – she’d done what she had to do, she had no choice, it was the best thing to do, the only thing to do, at the time – but regret is complicated. She didn’t regret making the choice that seemed best for him, but she still hurt over that choice. She hurt over that choice because it represented a loss, for her. Because it represented the loss of an unknown and unknowable future. Because it was a choice that changed someone else’s life, someone else’s future. Because some part of her felt that she needed to explain that choice, perhaps apologize for that choice. Make it clear that the choice was made out of love.

The choice that caused her so much pain was not the same kind of choice that I made. There is no one to whom to explain my choice. There is no one to whom to apologize. No claim can be made that my choice was made out of love. There is no one to whom I might make that claim. Because that’s how abortion differs from adoption: it means that the only person you need ever – can ever – explain your choice to is yourself. It doesn’t matter whether you’re sorry or not. Abortion means never having to say you’re sorry. It means never even having to consider the question.

Which is not to say, of course, that we don’t consider the question. I’ve been considering the question – of whether or not I’m sorry, of whether or not I should be sorry, of whether or not sorry matters – since I first set foot in that abortion clinic. I have agonized over this. As I’ve explained in these virtual pages before, I can’t say that I regret having had an abortion, but I also can’t say that I don’t. It’s complicated. Its complicatedness sometimes hurts my heart. Which is precisely why people talk about the emotional consquences of abortion. Because many women find, like I did, that their hearts hurt. Because many women struggle to figure out how to reconcile the complicated tension between regret and not-regret and find that they’re unable, and because many women do so while bearing their children, their wanted children, in arms.

But that struggle – that is, my personal experience of that struggle – is one that can, most of the time, be compartmentalized, tucked away on some back shelf of the psyche and forgotten until some event – pregnancy, say, or miscarriage, or one’s own mother’s admission of having given one’s brother up for adoption – prompts one to go rummaging around on the shelves of Buried Hurts and Ambivalent Regrets and Things That I’d Rather Not Think About Unless My Sanity And/Or Moral Stability Depends Upon It. My mother’s struggle with her longstanding conflicting emotions around having given up a child for adoption is not – has never been – something that she can just tuck away on a shelf and forget about. She has never passed a day, she told me, without thinking about her lost boy – without looking at the faces of strangers who seem about his age and wondering is it him, without reading in the newspaper or hearing on the news something about any male person of his vintage and wondering is it him, without casting back to that baby in the blue blankie and wondering what became of him what became of him what became of him?

And that is so hard for her. I have seen the heartbreak on her face. Some 45 years or so after the fact, and the heartbreak is still there. I see the heartbreak on her face and I tell myself, there but for grace went I. And, thank gods for that grace, that I did not go.

But it is not so simple. It is not nearly so simple. For I know that the primary reason I am able to compartmentalize my own, quiet struggle is because it is entirely my own, and it is entirely my own because of the nature of the choice that I made. My child does not wander this earth, living another life. My child – and it is such a mental and emotional wank to even use these terms – was never born. My child never became my child. He/she/it was embryo, barely fetus, not a child. I did not have a child; I had a pregnancy. And then I didn’t.

(And yet. Even as I say that – “I did not have a child; I had a pregnancy” – I want to take it back. I’m a mother. I’ve had a very early term miscarriage. I very nearly lost Emilia to miscarriage. I know the terror of losing or fearing to lose that embryo, that not-quite-fetus, that not-child who is loved none the less for his or her unformedness. I would never have said – could never have said – of the embryo-that-became-Emilia, this is just a pregnancy, there is no child here. For even though she was not yet child, she was the cellular embodiment of my wish that she become a child, that she become my child. In the absence of that wish… is it just cells that remain? I don’t know. I do not know. I have not yet sorted this out. It is painful, trying to sort this out, this which might be, simply, unsortable. All I know is that these experiences are different, despite their similarities, and that I remain firmly committed to the rightness of having the ability – the choice – to distinguish between them. Ah, me.)

What remains: my inconstant, ambivalent hurt, and my mother’s endless heartache. Neither of these would I wish on anyone, but neither would I hold them up as justifications for tampering with our rights to choose those hurts, those aches, over others. We both chose our heartaches, out of desire to avoid greater heartache for ourselves or for others. In my mother’s case – in any birth mother’s case, I think – a more difficult choice was made, because it was a choice that opened up another future for another life, a future that she would never be able to see but would always, always feel. I, on the other hand… I chose the road that denied other lived futures, and that has made all the difference.

The right difference, the wrong difference, I don’t know. It is, ever and always and only and nevertheless, the one that I chose.

I live with that.

*Because you’re asking: yes, we are – I am – still looking for that boy, the lost boy, my brother. There has been some very limited progress recently, and I’m hoping that it yields something, but I don’t want to jinx things by speculating. Thank you all for caring so much.