Mourning the end of my Fertility chapter and sharing my internal conversation, with hope.

I often have full blown conversations in my head (well, when we’re all lucky they stay in my head anyway). I provide the dialogue for both sides of the conversation, yours and mine. In this context, “you” aren’t you though, “you” are what I imagine anyone outside of myself would say, listening to me talk. This conversation is one that has been playing, over and over in my mind for months, perhaps even years (before the “baby” door was forever closed, maybe?) and today I think that if I share it here, then just maybe, my mind will resolve the conversation and move onto one that is more productive and positive, less pitiful, woeful and futile. Or maybe it won’t, maybe this melancholy broken record will just become part of my new normal internal dialogue. Sometimes, for the smaller things that gnaw at my soul, just getting it off my chest is enough to lay it to rest but for the bigger things, I can say from experience, it can take years of writing, talking, crying and sorting through the muck in order to find a peaceful resolution.

On the daily, it goes something like this:

“I mourn the loss of my fertility. I’ll never feel all of those pregnancy feelings or delivery another baby.” I cry to my myself during those moments when either my house or my mind is quiet.

“How can that be? How selfish can you be?” You ask. “You have a handful of kids and you are constantly running around, cooking, cleaning, chauffeuring, mending, tearing out your hair, complaining, not sleeping, and almost never really ever done with a task (there is always more laundry to do, food to prepare, carpets to vacuum, errands to run). You are forever thinking about the time when you’ll have the time to achieve a few of your other goals. Goals other than elementary school homework, edible packed lunches and motherhood. You have enough kids, they’re growing up, life is finally about more than wiping bottoms, noses and tears – they can now do most of that stuff themselves. It’s great! Your kids are becoming competent humans, just what you always wanted them to be!”

“True, true,” I say, nodding my head and then shaking it violently back and forth. “But that changes nothing. Their growth feeds my grief. My grief for what is no longer as much as it grows my pride in them. What I would not give to have that one last pregnancy. That one last bump. The discomfort of pregnancy-induced heartburn, swollen limbs and looser joints. One last time to feel that “that’s it! I’m done being pregnant – this baby needs to evacuate now!” feeling. That one last precious (and quick) delivery and that wrinkly, squinty and puckered newborn brow to kiss. Those fingers and toes to count, that tiny human to marvel at. Priceless. To have that one last infant to nurse and cuddle and carry – EVERYWHERE. I wouldn’t trade what I have or who I have, but I would be completely complete, given just one last turn.”

“So have one then, what’s one more? You want it so badly, just do it. Or is it menopause? It’s got to be, doesn’t it?” You ask.

“No, no, not at all. I am not menopausal or even peri-menopausal. My cycle is as predictable and regular as ever. My body still functions. My marriage still functions. My ova though, they are past their ‘sell-by’ date and  there is nothing left of them to create a viable, healthy human anymore. And it is cruel for my body to behave like that of a younger, fertile version of myself and deprive me of that one last chance. Better ‘the change’ happen and at least give me the reprieve of the monthly bleeding and bloating with no ‘prize’ for my troubles and inconvenience.”

You, now exasperated “Well, get on with things then. Sounds like unless you’re willing to take some extreme and expensive measures, your baby-making days are behind you. Suck it up, Buttercup. You’ve caught your quota, time to pack up and go home, as the saying goes.”

Me, now defensive and defeated, “yes, I know that. I understand all of that. And I fight against feeling sad and distraught and I feel a right fool for feeling this way at all. I KNOW how blessed I am to have my children, I know how blessed I am to have the family that I have and I understand just how stupid and selfish and ridiculous it is, that I AM, for feeling this way. But I feel it anyway. Grief and mourning are real feelings, whether anyone believes I have a reason to feel this way is neither here nor there, because, at the end of the day, I DO feel this way. The puzzle for me then is to figure out how to have these feelings without letting them own me or stop me from living out the rest of my life with light, love and hope, rather than regret, loss and sadness.”

You, really fed up now, “Focus on the positive, you idiot! You have FIVE frickin’ kids. Each of them are healthy. Each of them are intelligent. Each of them has a kind and generous heart. Each of them are lovely (not a Quasimodo among the bunch). And you get to actively participate in their growing up, you get to help shape them into healthy, productive and kind humans. YOU get to do that, YOU get that privilege. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and count your blessings. ALL OF THEM. Babies you do not have, who did not make it to term, or were never conceived to begin with were not meant to be with you, they were not part of the plan for you. Everything happens for a reason, even sad things. The sooner you accept that and work within the light and blessed space you have, the sooner you will realize that while six may have been your dream, five is your perfect space.”

You continue, tired at this point with my tears and endlessly sad face, “Stop being sad when you hear news of another woman your age (give or take) being pregnant or having a baby. Be happy for her, for she is creating her perfect place. Maybe it is her first baby, maybe it is her last, it matters not, because it is part of the plan for her life. Be happy for yourself because you have your perfect place among a family who loves and needs you, a family who looks to you to steer the ship. You were a mother when you had but one baby, one child. You felt complete and never ‘less than’ other mothers with more children. Think back to that young woman, and remember how proud, competent and sure of yourself you felt. That is still you, you just look a lot older, fatter and more tired now and you have somehow figured out that you don’t always need to drown your fries with ketchup before you eat them. Sometimes, french fries are perfect just as they are. Like you, like your family, perfect in your imperfection.” You say.

“Thank you,” I say. “I needed that,” and I get on with my day, until next time.

🖤

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10 things that I think are pretty bitchin’ about being 40-something

If you’ve been here before, you probably know that I usually lean towards complain-y lists that focus on all of the things that are wrong with me and my world. I tend to write about my “struggle” (over-used word alert!) to keep my head above water and to stay on task while trying to improve, enhance and enrich my life and the lives of those who surround me and for whom I am responsible.

With that truth in mind, I have consciously decided to think about things that I usually make conscious decisions to NOT think about, like my age or my weight, or my hair, future aspirations and goals and to commit to think about them with an open mind and not with knee-jerk negative or self-defeating ideas. And it’s been an uncomfortable experience to say the least. And although I was sure that Oprah was full of shit when she aired her 40th birthday show and had her 40-something friends on to talk about how great 40 was, I’m beginning to see some of the beauty of our 40’s. So, sorry for doubting you Oprah. I should have known better.

Here are a few things about being in my 40’s that I am discovering are totally righteous:

1. I’m not in my teens anymore. My hormones are raging, my skin is being a vindictive prick, my boobs aren’t behaving and all I want to eat is junk food and chocolate. Ugh. Shit. Maybe I am in my teens again. Now, where my hairspray, scrunchies and leg warmers at?

2. I can appreciate time so much more now. I spent so much of my life before 40 waiting on or wishing for some  future day when this or that or the other would happen. I think I missed out on really savouring some experiences that I should slowed down for rather than being so busy rushing forward. I have gained some much needed perspective and can now slow down and really see and take in the wonder of NOW.

3. I have great car insurance coverage and rates. I’ve totally become Kathy Bates (minus the red sun visor) in 1991’s ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’ so look out younger, cuter, faster, perkier girls, ’cause I could go all Towanda on you in a Walmart parking lot and my insurance wouldn’t even breath hard. (If you don’t get the reference, here’s the clip, but the whole movie is worth your time to watch).

4. I’m still young enough to believe that I have another 50 good years left to accomplish all that I want to accomplish, so I’m not in a panic to get it all done RIGHT NOW. I have lots of time to raise my babies, learn new things, spend time with the people I love and stay up too late reading, writing, or goofing off. BUT, on the flip side, being in my 40’s also grants me the wisdom of how quickly those 50 years can fly by, so I’ll not be wasteful and take them for granted.

5. I may not look as good as I did in my twenties (by some people’s standards), my waist may be is thicker and my skin may be is looser, but since I never appreciated just how smokin’ hot I was back then anyway, I have to say that I prefer the version of ‘me’ that I am now. I’m comfortable in my skin (if not my jeans – yay yoga pants!), and I’m ok with my imperfections, the changes in my skin, body and looks. I don’t need to create an allusion of artificial youth to feel good about myself as a person or a woman. I have a 21-year-old son and four other children. Do I really need to look like I’m still 30? Nope.

Me. So cute. I know it now. But back then, I was 20 years old. About to become someone's mama and so insecure about the size of my dress that I forgot to worry about the size of my heart. I know better now (and I'm still so frickin' cute, but you'll just have to trust me on that because my selfie stick is in the shop *smirk*).

Me. In the early ’90’s being so cute. I know it now. But back then, I was 20 years old. About to become someone’s mama and so insecure about the size of my dress that I forgot to worry about the size of my heart. I know better now (except I’m still so frickin’ cute, but you’ll just have to trust me on that because my selfie stick is in the shop *smirk*).

6. I can be honest with myself and others about my mistakes. In my teens and twenties and into my thirties, I had to be perfect – real or imagined. I kept myself under intense pressure to a) not make mistakes b) not appear to make mistakes and c) not admit to making mistakes. And it was depressing, exhausting and inauthentic as fuck. I’m so much more comfortable and happier now that I allow myself mistakes, allow myself to own and admit my mistakes, apologize for my mistakes, learn from my mistakes and move on from my mistakes. When I didn’t or couldn’t own my mistakes, they held me hostage. Now in my forties, I’m mostly free from that brand of self-inflicted psychological warfare.

7. The realization that so many things just don’t matter has been beyond liberating. As a child, teenager and young adult, I was a social butterfly. I had many friends and was always embroiled in someone’s drama. Usually in the role of advisor or voice-of-reason and not an integral player in the drama, it nevertheless wore me down and made my soul tired and jaded. So many of the situations that we afforded countless hours of our lives to, just did not matter. They should have been cleared up, solved or walked away from within minutes and not revisited. But they were not. I gave the situations much too much attention and life energy, far more than they deserved. And now, I don’t. I let far more things go and I ‘own’ far fewer of other people’s issues. If asked, I will give my opinion or advice, but age (ha!) and experience have taught me that once I share my thoughts that it is then time for me to let it go and move on. This is a very liberating space to be in and one which I’m so glad that I figured out.

8. I’m really enjoying that it’s okay, and even maybe BETTER to be NICE, as Pollyanna as that sounds. Figuring out that I don’t have to be cutting or sarcastic in order to be funny or smart. I can be encouraging, positive and still be witty, clever and make others laugh. Self-deprecating humour is still one of my go-to schticks, but let’s face it. It’s funny, so why would I stop? But I have stopped taking the piss out of others quite so often and quite so brutally. I may poke a bit, here and there, but I no longer take it so far. I’ve learned when to stop before I hurt anyone’s feelings. And I’ve finally realized that it’s okay to just say nothing sometimes. Not for the sake of comedy (although a well-placed look can sometimes be funnier than any words) but rather because it’s better to be quiet than to be insincere, dishonest or hurtful. Not every thought in my head needs to be released into the universe and not every opinion that I have needs to be shared with another person to be valid. And perhaps I’m learning, now in my forties, that just because I may feel frustrated, tired, angry or put out about something, I do not the right nor have I been given free rein to flood my surroundings with negativity and darkness. There is great peace in keeping one’s own counsel at times. Sometimes, silence serves the greater good far better than the temporary and minor relief that follows releasing those vibes into the universe.

9. Just knowing that my life does not end when someone I meet doesn’t like me is a HUGE improvement in the quality of my life over that of my younger years. And the freedom I feel knowing that my life also does not end when my jeans refuse to fit. Nor does it end any those times that I cannot find my chapstick (or keys, purse, or flip flops). It just does not. I keep living, and more often than not, just as happily as before. This is in stark contrast to my life as a teenager when each of those things on their own were deal breakers, and had the power collectively to bring about a complete shutdown. Life was over; cue inconsolable angst. But now, in my forties, those frequent and common moments are barely a blip on my life radar and no longer hold a place on the ‘life is not worth living’ list. Whew!

Exactly this.

Exactly this.

10. I have always had a fair-to-good appreciation for my parental units, I usually liked them and I always loved and admired them. They have, in my estimation, been good parents to me. But as is true in so many other areas of my life, my appreciation has changed now that I am older. Today I can recognize all they did for me and how good my childhood was, largely due to their unending efforts. And no, it was not all sunshine and lollipops in our family. I got in trouble. I talked back, broke curfew, got grounded, lost privileges and was generally an asshole to them during much my adolescence, but they did what parents are supposed to do and they loved me anyway. They supported, encouraged and believed in me, even when I was a jerk, an emotional basket case, or an ill-tempered pain in the ass. Often times I was all three of these beauties at once.

When I think of my parents, I still think of them as being in their 30’s (which I admit is weird since I’m not even in my 30’s anymore). In my mind’s eye they are frozen in time and remain young, healthy, strong superheroes who can rescue my stupid ass from whatever trouble I get it into. Every now and then, something happens to remind me that I may not get to have them forever and I try to be brave and philosophical when those thoughts enter my consciousness. I mean, I am a parent as well, so I like to think that I can relate to parental issues from both sides, but as desperate as I was twenty years ago to NOT be treated like a child and to assert my independence as an adult, I now realize just how much I need and value knowing that to my parents, I will always be a child and they will always have those fierce parental instincts to love, encourage and protect me.

Family trip to California, long before I turned into an asshole but either way, my parents never shied away from travelling with me and showing me that there was so much more to the world than our own backyard. Just one of the very many parenting 'wins' before 'winning' was a thing.

A family trip to California, long before I turned into an asshole but either way, my parents never shied away from travelling with me and showing me that there was so much more to the world than our own backyard. Just one of the very many parenting ‘wins’ before ‘winning’ was a thing.

When I was in my twenties, forty was OLD. Like one-foot-in-the-grave, just waiting to die, old. Now that I’m in my forties, I’m almost embarrassed by how stupid I was in my twenties. Luckily, I’m getting all this shit figured out while I’m still so young and able to benefit from these lessons and live the next 50-odd years a little bit smarter, kinder, and gentler. Although, I imagine that I will still remain mostly unbalanced and prone to moments of assholio outbursts.

You’re welcome.

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