Fertility Windows & the Existential Crises

I went to the doctor yesterday for my annual checkup. My doctor has a 5 month old baby, her first. Last time I saw her she was very pregnant. She’s doing well, looked tired, has half the workload she did before baby. The woman I saw a year ago had perfect clothes and makeup, put together in “all the ways”. Today her hair was in a pony tail, no makeup and her shirt looked laundered but that’s about it.

I did not fully understand her before, but this woman, I know.

In the course of many, many questions she asks, “Are you going to have any more children?” “NO!” I snapped back with a look of horror and disgust, as if that was the most unnatural thing in the world to ask. (Getting to this “no” was never easy and yes, does have a tiny hint of sadness there, “in theory” but in reality- NO!)

She was completely taken aback, especially after I had just nodded my head through her telling me about her birth and a quick synopsis of feeding and sleeping schedules. Why would I want to do that again? Pssht.

Rewind a half hour earlier when I had been opening the door to her office. It’s an office with many kinds of doctors. Specialty medicine, general practitioners, OBGYN and psychiatrist/therapists. I was looking at one of the psychiatrist’s names and had a two sentence conversation in my head, it went like this:

“I think I’m having an existential crisis…”

“What else is new?”

As the day went on I was completely worn down, tired, thirsty, moody. I came home and laid in bed. I realized that I had an emotionally exhausting dream the night before that left me pondering the questions, “To whom do I belong? Who really am I, if it’s just me?”

I took my daughter to softball practice. I brought my camping chair and went a reasonable distance away from the other parents that said, yeah, I’m good over here all alone, but not too far away so as to say, I’m a bad parent. Anyway, one mother (imagine a petite WASP with brown hair) “Did you hear Prince Died today? So sad.”

Roots.jpgI looked up at her from my phone in which I had been posting Prince articles onto Facebook. “Yeah…” I said in the please don’t talk to me kind of way. Then I realized I was wearing my “The Roots” t-shirt. And I’m not talking about some subtle obscure concert T where you don’t know if it’s for a band or coffee or what. I mean it says “THE ROOTS” in 5″ letters across the top. I wanted to yell at her, “Umm… excuse me, in what world does a woman wear a Roots t-shirt and NOT know Prince died!”

Yeah, it was dusk and I was in full on bitch mode, then I came home and accused my boyfriend of being annoyingly literal when he corrected something I said (which he was being). I was waiting to eat dinner and getting more and more annoyed. Then I looked…

I use an app on my phone called “Clue” to keep tract of my “womanly days”. Like most woman I’m not as predictable as the phases of the moon. Originally I turned off all the other functions except for when I would start my period. I mean, I don’t want to have any more kids (did you read the beginning of this post?) And therefore don’t need to know when my “fertility window” is, but I have since turned it back on because I found myself “hormonal” (a way overused word) on those days.

Until I had a thought, my whole day started to come together (sometimes I’m a little slow)… The dream and question “To whom do I belong?”, “Are you having more kids?”, The death of one of my all time favorite musicians, not fitting in to the normal parent “mold” and just overall fitfulness of the day, I opened the app.

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It’s the first full day of my “Fertility Window”. F*ing hormones… 

And yet… It would all make sense wouldn’t it? That Every month I have an existential crisis at the very same time my body is reacting hormonally by releasing an egg to to be fertilized and playing a real life Russian Roulette.

Once a month I have restless leg syndrome for the soul. It’s an illease that sits in my chest and whispers “do more, be more, go deeper, make smarter decisions” and do all of this while meditating like Don Draper during the final scene of Mad Men. 

Huh… More to ponder, I shall experiment with this over the next few months. Thoughts?

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Part Time Mother

 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.        ~ Romans 8:38-39

For the last year I have shared custody with my ex-husband. We have 50/50 custody, we live about a mile apart, we are (for the most part) amicable in this arrangement. I am lucky. There has not been any scaring or damaging court battle. We do not pin our children against each other. We have our complaints, but overall, we co-parent as well as two people ever could. We do not speak ill of each other or put our children in the middle of our own disagreements in front of our children. We make every decision together. This is the way it has always been since we became parents, this is the way, we both pray, it will always be.

When we first separated I read a lot of articles like this one and this one about brave women being honest about how they enjoyed their time away from their children and how they are better moms for it. I admit, I thought this would be me, and some days, it is. Some days are hard and I’m glad I don’t “have my children” those days. I have the flexibility to schedule meetings without the “guilt” of not being home for dinner. I can go to yoga without having to worry about what time the kids need to be picked up. Last night I didn’t eat dinner until 9pm and no one complained but me.

Truth is though, I had that before too.

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I was never intended to be a “mother” the way my foremothers were (BTW- spellcheck wants to change that to “forefathers” or “housemothers” I kid you not). I didn’t seek, nor ever intended to be a stay-at-home mom. In fact, I really wish I had it in me, I feel like a lesser mother because I don’t. (guilt for women if you do, guilt if you don’t…) But alas, I am a career mom (and proud for many reasons of it).

The agreement with having children in the first place was we had to be equal partner in it all. I was not cut out to do it alone. My ex-husband stayed home for 6 months at a time with each of our children when they were babies, I went back to work 8 weeks after giving birth both times, and was ready to do so. Yes, I took care of them as I worked from home many days a week, parenting was never one sided, it was always together. Seriously, he and I could write a book on model co-parenting. (PS- It’s consistency. Particularly with communication and scheduling).

In fact, I didn’t notice the problems in our marriage for so long because we were such great co-parents. We had great communication. We rarely had issues where the kids were concerned. We covered with and for each other, we were in agreement with the daily decisions and the big ones, we worked together. We do still, but it is very different.

I have no idea what they’re doing when they are not with me. We have issues with little things like not brushing my daughter’s hair or using the right shampoo (with my kids, hair is a big problem), did they get their allergy medicine? All the shoes and coats got left at his house and change of weather clothing is a demon in and of itself!

When I first separated people were trying, and trying hard to help me see a bright side. “I would kill for a weekend alone!” Guess what, those weekends alone? I don’t know what to do with myself! When I have my kids it’s exhausting and overwhelming, when I don’t, I get depressed. It’s all or nothing, no moderation. But it’s actually not “nothing.”

Because I may only have my kids part of the time, but that does not make me a part time mother. 

YES- I like going out without paying a babysitter. YES- I like having a Saturday without catering to every whim. YES- I like eating cookies and ice cream for dinner without explaining myself. YES- I love sleeping in.

But that does not mean on those days I stop being a mother. That I don’t think about, make decisions for, or feel guilt about not being with them.

In Romans, Paul lends beautiful pros to how God loves us. There is nothing we can do or not do to separate the love. If we reject God, God does not reject us. There is no way for God to STOP being God.

I am doing the best I can. Truth is, I have the “ideal” setup for divorced parents and it sucks. I want my kids all the time AND I want to share the responsibility of parenting, we just can’t be married or live together anymore. Do I stop being a mother when my kids are at school, or when they’re on a play date? No. You cannot separate me from my motherhood. Not having my kids all the time does not make me a part time mother. There is no such thing as being a part time mother. Period.

I am a mom. I am divorced. I share custody of my children. On the days I do not see my kids, I am still a mom.

By the way, If you sang Steve Wonder when reading this title, we are bonded forever as friends.

Steady

Hope

Steady. My life is chaos, i do not know what this means. For the past 18 months my spiritual director has been telling me to “be good to myself” as I struggle to find “balance”.

Okay, I don’t know how to do that.

I can take care of you (or someone who is not me) all day long, and I would bend over backwards to do it, but me… me not so much.

After I had my first child I went back to the OB for my 6 week checkup. Now when I was pregnant I was excellent about taking my prenatal vitamins but once she was born… eh, not so much. Well my doc laid into me. She explained that I HAD to take my multi-vitamin and my calcium. That my daughter was literally sucking it out of my bones.

“Your daughter will get what she needs from you, this is not about her, this is about you. You have to replenish.”

Well, let me tell you, that was the exact wrong thing to say, and I was just tired enough to not filter myself and I told her just that. “If you tell me it’s for the baby I’ll do it. If it’s for me, I won’t.”

So what does all this have to do with steady?

Well, there are times when my well is dry and when the well is dry the hope goes with it. We HAVE to replenish. So the day steady came up I was on a plane to California. My well was pretty dry. I opened my Cantata book and saw these words. “Freely, with tenderness”

That’s what I wanted. That’s how I was going to replenish, THAT’S what it means to be good to myself. Hold myself “freely, with tenderness”. In other words, in loving-kindness, in other words, I don’t have to put so many expectations and restraints on myself that I am literally sucked dry.

The world, my family, the people I serve will get what they need- I have to hold myself freely, with tenderness.  This is the way my life will find steadfast peace- freely, with tenderness.

A Prayer for the Little Things

After all day of watching the news and thinking about the Newtown Shooting I walked into my 5 year old daughter’s bedroom, I say all her barbies and fairies, her tree house tent, her baptismal gown and her butterfly mobile, the first thing we bought when we found out I was pregnant, hanging above her bed.  I tucked her in and thanked God she was there.

I walked out of the room and into my bedroom, laid on the bed and sobbed.
That’s all I could do… last night my prayer was tears, that’s all I could manage.

Today the idea of losing so many children my daughter’s age is haunting, and all I can think about is the little things, the little things these children, parents, grandparents, teachers, and neighbors will miss out on, so here is a prayer for the little things:

I pray for the empty classroom, with crayons but no one to color with them.

For the teachers with no one to teach.

For the elves on a shelf with no owners, for the presents that will never be opened.

For the dreams of future veterinarians, fire fighters, ballerinas, and superheros that will never be realized.

For the crotchy old men who will have no one to yell “get off my lawn” to

For the grandmothers with no one to bake cookies with.

For the fathers with no one to play catch with.

For the empty rooms filled with Barbies, and Lighting McQueens.

For the Mothers that will never hear “mommy, look a butterfly”

For the parents that will never have to endure the first band concert or push their kids to become the basketball player they never could.

For all the “Mommy, I love you” “Daddy, my tummy hurts” or “Lizzy’s parents are letting her go” that will never be heard.

For all the “take out the trash” and “clean your room”‘s that will never be yelled.

I pray for the doors that will never have the opportunity to be slammed after a fight.

For the predictable phone bills that will never change because there is no one to text too much.

For the parents that will get too much sleep because there is no child to stay our past curfew.

For the graduation gowns that will never be worn, or the florist that will have no wedding to get flowers to.

For the hospitals with no babies to be born, in Newtown Connecticut, because the children will not grow up to have them.