Friday, September 23, 2011

It isn't always pretty

You are doing so well.  You guys are handling this great.  You guys are so strong. I can't believe how positive you both are.

I hear these things often.  Sometimes from people who I think would imagine themselves in constant shambles, and since I'm not in tears, I must be ok.  Sometimes I hear it from close family who know the stress, or at least they try to imagine it.

But in the end.  The only person who I know who knows what I'm going through is Kris.  And he speaks an entirely different emotional language than I do some days.  I don't "do well" everyday.  I "handle" it great most of the time.  But I don't feel strong.  Not ever.  I feel powerless.  Weak.  Helpless.  Defenseless.

Kris then tells me that he can't feel those things when he's got this baby right in front of him.  "I'm just so excited she's here."  Sometimes he is so positive it makes me sick.  Ok, by sick I mean jealous.  How in the hell do I compete with that?  I suppose the normal stresses of early parenthood, the sleep deprivation, the juggling of appointments, the postpartum hormones... that all is a recipes for one hot mess.

I don't always handle it great.  Not everyday, but somedays I just break down.  I imagine if I couldn't sing to Grace anymore in the shower as she played and I swayed with her in my arms.  But I know she is so in tune with my emotions that I suck it up.  I cry alone later.

I started reaching out to other mothers like me.  Maybe I'll find some comfort and companionship there that helps me understand how to keep coping.  Because true, I cope.  But it's the endurance.   How do I continue to be "strong" or cope with this without crumbling.

My sister Emily was at Doernbecher in her preteens.  She was there for several weeks with an odd childhood illness that just. Went. Away.  It made her very sick at times and my family even sicker with worry.  Ha! But not me.  I was just like Kris.  I knew in my gut Emily would be fine.  She wasn't going anywhere.  I just had that feeling.  My poor mother and father went through the same stresses we are going through but with two other children, moving to a new town, and both working and commuting.  I remember a lot of tears.  A lot of worry.  Why wasn't I worried?  Sometimes I thought it could be because maybe there was something wrong with me.  Did I want my sister to die from this crazy disease? I must if I weren't worried.  But no.  That wasn't it.

Then my dad felt sick for a long time with stomach problems.  He went to an ER and they sent him home with antacid.  On the way to work a few days later, he was so sick he drove straight to the hospital and had a surgery that day to remove his gullbladder.  Again! I had complete faith that meh, this guy was gonna pull through.  He even had a very seriously enlarged gull bladder that was on it's way to bursting, but they sucked that puppy out and all I said was, "I bet they'll have to shave your tummy daddy."  I just knew he'd be ok.

My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.  She was devastated.  How could she not be?  I feel like her.  I take after my mother that way sometimes.  Yet she went for surgery and came out the other side.  Her journey was grueling.  And you know what, you want to help but there really isn't much you can do sometimes and that hurts the most.  Talking about it or bringing it up wasn't what she wanted.  She didn't want it to define her, consume her already consumed life.  So what do you do?  Act normal.  Love her the same as she was.  Hope for the best.  I recall feeling confident my mother would pull through her ordeal, but my heart broke because I knew her journey was going to be a long personal one.

And so now.  How do I feel about Grace?  Do I feel like, "yes, we can do this. She'll get this tumor out, not need chemo, and we'll be on our merry way home we occasional scans and a cure"?  Uh well most of the time I do.  Not always and those times I bawl my eyes out and ask why me?  I think I have a script that I tell myself so I can keep positive, because once I start bawling and asking why me, I feel like I may never come out again.

In the end, my next few weeks will be trying no matter how I spin it.  I will have another delivery and labor of a different sorts.  One that means hard work, patience, and the scary truth that I HAVE TO GO THROUGH WITH THIS NO MATTER WHAT.  Like five weeks ago, I was prepared to push my bundle out because I knew there was no alternative.  Now, I want to negotiate my way out.  I want to sleep my way through it.  I want to be in denial.  I want to resist this delivery in a way I didn't my first.  And it's the same powerlessness mixed with inner strength in the face of the painful inevitable.

I just have to tell myself what I told myself then.  It won't be pretty, but at the end there will be a baby.  Give in to get the baby.  Give in to get the baby. Be open.  Let this happen.  It's not pain, it's my soul growing.  Even as I type it I feel like it's a crock, but I know that with practice I can believe it fully in my time of trial and need.

Grace gives me the dreams to live on to make it through.  She smiled 4 times at me today.  When I thought it was gas... she did it again and again and again when I'd call out her name and coo at her.  We took a shower today, her favorite, and she stretched those long toes and legs out in the water.  She's a water baby.

SO I suck it up and imagine myself combing sticky things out of her hair, putting halloween costumes on her, taking her to swimming lessons, teaching her to be a friend, telling her how much I love her, and knowing someday I did all this to have her be a confused irrational teenager who talks back and hates me(don't worry she'll come around).  And I imagine myself drawing with face paint little doodles around her scar, the remnants of this whole ordeal, and telling her all about something she'll never remember and feel oddly disconnected from.  Because it isn't really Grace that is dealing with the cancer emotionally.  It was me and it was Kris and it was all her family.  How odd.  She'll never be touched by this but be defined in a way by it for her family.  I hope she sees it for what it all is: a tremendous amount of love.

I keep telling myself: you will bring her home.  You WILL get to bring her home.  You WILL get to bring her home and go back to loving her the same as now.  Soon.  Soon.  Just days.  A matter of days and she'll be home with you and you'll be holding her as you always did. And when the tests come back, it will be only good news.  Only good news.

Sure I look like I'm coping...

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