Laying here tonight, the night before I return to work and Ziva is to start daycare, I keep having the thought that it was all worth it. What exactly am I referring to?
Everything. The awkward years. The junior high torment. The troubled teen years, a square peg in a community of round holes. The challenges of growing up. The heart aches. The tough lessons. The long school years and late nights. The break ups. The many moves. Friends lost and gained.
Everything. Each and every thing I’ve experienced and endured in my life until this time. The time when I get to be Ziva’s mama. It was all worth it for this.
As a young teen dealing with depression and challenging social dynamics I once gave up and tried to throw in the towel. I’m glad it didn’t work. It’s true that “It gets better,”. Over the years many things have gotten much better. But there have been ups and downs along the way.
Being Ziva’s mother, experiencing her birth, spending time with her and seeing who she is, these things are what make me say, “It doesn’t just get better, it’s all worth it. It’s worth going through all of the grit of life to experience this.”
Obviously, Brian and I would prefer the alternative. We would much rather be happily awaiting our baby-to-be, rather than trying to find the silver linings in this awful situation. Never the less, I have found it really helpful today to focus on all of the small positives that remain as a result of losing the baby. They are a sorry alternative, but I’d rather focus on gratitude for the good stuff, rather than linger on the loss and all of the “why’s” and the anger, sadness, and pain.
So, this is what we are left with. My list of silver linings:
I am grateful to have more time to settle into my new job. I was pretty nervous about having to take maternity leave during my first year with a new company, even though I am pretty sure my new employer would have handled it fairly.
I am grateful that I will have more time to get our finances in order before attempting to bankroll childcare. With only 28 weeks to go, the cost of going back to work was really starting to give me heartburn. We would have made it though.
I am grateful that I will have a chance to get my body healthy again before becoming pregnant again. It was a tough winter on my waistline and it can’t hurt to get a little more fit and active before the next go round.
Right now, this is pretty much all I can think of. It hurts a bit to think of anything good… It is strange to process mentally and emotionally that we aren’t actually pregnant anymore.
In the first trimester so much of the experience is mental and emotional. Despite the blatant side effects and symptoms, a lot of what grows in those first 12 weeks are your hopes, dreams, and expectations. The baby books and apps all recommend taking time each day to develop a connection, a bond with the growing baby… than, immediately when it’s over everyone starts telling you not get too attached, and that it wasn’t really a baby yet (or at all if it terminated because something was wrong genetically). Like it’s that simple.
It’s not that easy to make the cognitive leap to believing whole heartedly that a little human is actually living inside of you and will someday be a person you know, talk to, and love… it’s even harder to reverse that.
Here, years later, I haven’t quite gotten around to that yet. But I’m getting closer.
My mind goes a million miles a minute, and often my mouth goes faster. I type quickly, I text quickly and my thoughts jump ahead of me. Especially when I am in stress or conflict.
I very often find that in moments of intensity (whether intense concentration or intense emotion), I am holding my breath. When I am nervous, when I am angry or worried, when I am deep in thought; what all of these moments share is the discovery that I’ve pressed my tongue tight up against the back of my teeth and that my head is a bit dizzy from lack of breath.
There have been many breathless moments this year. With work and home life moving full speed ahead, and the familial stress-test of wedding planning, this is no surprise. At the intersection of expectations, hopes, family histories and futures, things can get a little crazy.
My mom and I have had a particularly challenging road this year. I know lots of brides and mother-of-the-brides have their bumps, but I am really close to my mom and I hate it when we aren’t able to find our groove together.
A few weeks ago she started telling me about a woman she met at a seminar at the Eselan Institute in Big Sur, CA. She always tells me about people she meets who have a connection to Michigan (Probably because like most coast-dwellers with no family connection to the middle states, we are always a little surprised that everyone else seems to have roots here). This time she had a met a psychologist who also practices meditation and who happens to live right in my area. Excitedly, my mom encouraged me to call her. I didn’t immediately, with a full-time job, life to manage and a wedding to plan I felt too short on time to take on another obligation. Eventually, just days before the Dr. Donna was scheduled to leave town for a while, my mom reminded me one last time to give her a call.
It seems to me that when there are significant shifts in my life, moments where I can feel my emotional energy shifting, everything slows down and gets more vivid. The light is brighter, the contrasts of shadows and light are striking and the beauty and complexity of everyday things strike me as important details to be remembered and studied.
When I pulled up to Dr. Donna’s house the next Monday I was happy to be off work a little early, but also a bit nervous that I was meeting someone new. Pulling around the winding driveway to Dr. Donna’s house I took in my breath, this time with excitement as I absorbed the moment. The light broke through in rays and bounced of the white puffs of pollen floating gracefully down from the stately trees. I could see past the mid-century modern home and through the tall triangle of the windows, that it sat on the edge of a quiet lake.
I was early, but Dr. Donna was ready to for me and welcomed me through the tall heavy doors and into the spacious living room. We started with some friendly discussion of my mother, and a bit of background about Dr. Donna and her professional and personal background that led her to practicing and teaching mindfulness meditation. I listened hungrily and grew eager at the chance that this might actually be the beginning of my practice. Self-conscious at moments that she might think me a total mess, I cautiously shared my desire to find some release from my hyper-vigilance over life.
In those moments listening to her talk, sipping ice water from a mason jar and watching the pollen float past the window in this idyllic scene, it was so much clearer to me how desperately I’ve longed for a release from my anxiety and stress. How desperately I’ve missed being present in my life.
With just a few weeks left in our wedding year, I can feel the moments slipping past and I want to hold on to each one. I’ve let life and comparisons and internal dialogues distract me from enjoying the happy moments and memories this year. I don’t want to miss any more.
The urgency of these desires heightened the emotionality of the moment and my resolve that I was exactly where I was meant to be that day. As Dr. Donna took me through the parts that make up a mediation practice, breaking down the breath, sitting and the meanings and options in mediation practice, I could feel my body unravel and relax.
Dr. Donna taught me that when I meditate I should simply notice my thoughts when they arrived or when I caught myself thinking, and that in that moment of recognizing the thought for what it is, I am already returning to the focus on breathing and sitting. Most surprising in this was that I found it really difficult to breathe steadily and naturally. I realized how shallow my breathing is, and how uncomfortable I was with deep and slow breathing.
As we practiced, I could feel my breaths get deeper, longer and slower, and in time with my breathing, my emotions responded with calmness, and joy. At the same time as I was relaxing I felt an energy that seemed to stem from my heart. I haven’t felt that natural verve for life since winter settled down over us and the days got short.
The one thought I had that made me smile and well-up before I labeled it thinking and returned to my breath- This is my mother’s gift. This is my mother’s way of being with me this year. This is her way of being the my mother-of-the-bride that I couldn’t ask for because I didn’t know that it was exactly what I needed. And just like that I could feel that even from across the country and from difficult places in our lives, my mother is still my closest friend.
Sure, we have had our bouts since that day, but it was in this moment that I realized that she was supporting me in her own ways, and I love her for it.
I’ve also used a few of the techniques Dr. Donna taught me that day, mostly to notice my reactions and try and bring my breathing back to a slow and steady rhythm when I find myself winding up. It hasn’t always worked so far, but I’m sure I’ll get there.