Monday, July 2, 2018

Mom

It dawned on me a few weeks ago... there is something I don't easily discuss in any forum, and that is my family of origin, specifically, my parents and any issue that greatly affects me, involving them.


I haven't blogged much about my mom here on TCIE, except where it had to do with my own struggles through infertility, and wanting to model my own motherhood after hers, and my faith story.

I haven't blogged about my mom on the private blog at all, even though her part of that story was always felt, in strong, supportive, and loving ways.

I haven't even Facebooked about my mom or dad, except for an occasional Mother's Day and Father's Day post. And it's not just because they are smart, old people who think Facebook is stupid and would never set foot there.

It's because it's a part of me I am, for some reason, not so apt to open up about. I share freely with friends and strangers alike about my gynecological escapades for years on end, but talk about my mom, my relationship with her, and her current health situation? No.

I think I realized this in therapy recently. Having opened the conversation by giving the latest update on my mom's situation, I moved onto other areas of my personal and professional life and how my anxiety was trickling into all of them... then I backtracked and said "I don't know why I'm focusing so much on everything else except the biggest, most important issue, here." My therapist said, "Well, it was the very first thing you said when you sat down. You're not ignoring it." I replied, "Yes, but that was so I could get it over with and move on to other topics."

Because nobody wants to sit and dwell on the fact that their mother is dying.


And when Max, my therapist, told me he was sorry to hear the news and that it was awful... I sat in silence. Having already shed many tears in that room over all kinds of other stupid shit, here I was trying to hold back the tears that actually meant something.

I'm not a cryer. Not in front of other people, anyway. Unless two things are in place:  1) I really, really trust them, and 2) what I'm crying over helps me to feel better once the crying stops.
A good, cathartic cry is always good. I generally do them privately.

But, if I don't see a resolution, or a step towards feeling better? Ima fight those tears like they're the devil and I'm St Michael.


Tears for Mom? I don't see those stopping any time soon. So, I won't start.

Healthy, right?




In August 2015, Robbie had just turned 4 months old, and already had lost his first house and claimed bankruptcy (Mommy's Little Overachiever). That's when the 2 of us moved to my hometown, and I went in search of a job for his father. A few months later, Mom was diagnosed with a very rare form of ovarian cancer, originating in a dermoid cyst that was starting to cause her pain. (It's called squamous cell carcinoma of a dermoid.) The cyst was large enough at that point to have invaded the uterus, and was classified as Stage II. She had a complete hysterectomy, and began radiation and chemo through March/April 2016. That was when I started my business, and Robbie had his first birthday, which she attended after treatment.

With follow-up labs and scans, everything seemed okay cancer-wise. However, she developed a bad hernia after the surgery and a year later went through another abdominal surgery for that.

Then, around the holidays 2017, she started complaining of pain in her back and shoulder...

A mass was later found in her lung, which, prior to biopsy we weren't sure if it was a primary lung cancer or metastatic ovarian.

Turns out, it was the latter. And, due to its location, inoperable.

Around this time, Robbie and I decided to pack up the bare necessities from our quaint little cottage apartment, and move into a bedroom at Mom and Dad's, so I could be there 'round the clock. The intention was to cook, clean, and take care of as much as possible around the house that my mom could no longer do easily. It was meant to be short-term, as she was going to be starting treatments and was told there would be likely a couple of years.

Mom started radiation, and chemo. Got through first chemo, then wound up in hospital on Robbie's 3rd birthday, with what was later diagnosed as pneumonia. Came out of the hospital, had a 2nd chemo of a lesser dose, back in hospital from complications of the ongoing pneumonia and dehydration. Transferred to a rehab facility after that. Released home in early June.


Met with oncologist who said the only viable options at this point would be immunotherapy or palliative care. Immunotherapy was iffy because Mom still lacked the strength to tolerate it, not to mention the transportation to and from the appointments (she cannot do the stairs and requires an oxygen tank, so getting out of the house is a huge ordeal). Mom and Dad chose hospice.


Right now, she is using an in-home hospice team, and they have been pretty good. This just started late last week. My Dad and I are the main caregivers.

Robbie and I just signed a lease on a 2-bedroom house, just 3 minutes down the road. Haven't moved in, yet, that will be a slow process, I'm sure. After 3 months of staying with them 24/7, I am struggling to maintain balance for Robbie with care-giving for Mom (and Dad). From our own space, it will be easier.  I know that sounds weird, but trust me. It will.

And so now we all prepare. In our own way, on our own timeline.

If you haven't guessed it by now, my brand seems to be along the lines of "avoid by keeping busy" much like with my other crosses, in life. I am very much a Martha in times of high stress, and wouldn't know where to begin trying to be a Mary. So, care-giving I began and leaped in head first, 100%. Robbie has been... AMAZING through this whole thing, while yes, he is still three.  But he is a good, good boy and I am so blessed.

I never thought anything in my life could be this draining. And, I have my Dad also giving 100% (even more than me, as he's with her through the night, right next to her). But, let me tell you... this shit is HARD. The visiting Hospice Team members only come about once per day or every other day, we haven't even started with the home health aide schedule (personal care like bathing), and my Dad and I are trying to juggle an entire medical team's work with our own guilt of wondering what happens if we screw up something... I repeat: this. shit. is. HARD.



In the meantime, I recognize that it is the hard, and the constant, that have become my avoidance mechanism. I do not have to think about what's happening when I'm instead thinking about the phone ringing with instructions for the next medication, jumping to assist in bringing her to the bathroom, and ensuring Mom eats when she can, and that food is on the table for Dad and Robbie's mealtimes... yeah, I'm not dieting. On purpose. I love food. It's just waaaaay low on my priority list at the moment.


My mother. It's my mother. She is the woman who shaped me.

Thank God for her faith, and the faith she gave to me. I know I'll get through this. But I know it's going to hurt like hell when I finally allow it to...


Please join me in prayer for Donna Maria. My beautiful, loving, self-sacrificing, quirky, Heaven-seeking (not to be confused with perfection-seeking as each of her 4 daughters often interpreted it as teenagers and beyond...), steadfast and conscientious mother.




Hail Mary, full of grace...









Tuesday, June 19, 2018

In Love vs Love

It's funny how my last post, of a completely different vein than the rest of the archives on TCIE, got more hits than any other post in the past couple of years. I guess the interwebs are really invested in my dating life, eh?

For countless reasons, there are things I just can never, and will never share here on the public forum. Try as I may have to compartmentalize all the various pieces of my life, over the past year they have definitely managed to morph into one persona - me. The real me. And, sorry not sorry, I just need to keep some things private, as my *audience* is no longer restricted to the tiny little sector of Catholic Women with Infertility.

That said, know that my last post was shared to shed light on what things are like for a newly annulled Catholic woman who first began to wade into the intimi-dating waters... months ago.

Today, things look a bit different. And in true TCIE fashion, it's hard, it's daunting, and it's a challenge I welcome and run into like a stubborn toddler, learning the hard lessons as I go. Hopefully with less tantrums this time around.

But it occurred to me that there is a big topic that relates to my dating life and personal relationships, that I have never written about before, even though I have thought about it and ascribed to the idea, myself, for decades. And so I'd like to write about it, now.


That is, the way I define love vs. in love.




Contrary to pop culture, media, and perhaps the majority of society, I have from a young age seen the two as clearly distinct, not necessarily connected. Of course as a young girl, I wanted nothing more than to experience the feelings of being "in love," and would form hopeless crush after hopeless crush, thinking I was in love in each instance. Until it finally happened when I was 18.

Oh, what wonderful, addictive, chemically-potent feelings of falling in love when it's the 'real thing'! I was in love with being in love, not JUST with the guy on the receiving end! And I'm certainly not knocking the experience - it was exhilarating! And when it happened for real? I knew that love would follow... 

I had in my mind grasped the fact that love was a choice, even as a teenager. I also had an understanding that love was long-lasting whereas "in love" could fade in time. Basically it became a very well-defined distinction between FEELINGS (in love) and ACTION (love as a verb, as doing for the other, as reciprocating). 

And I think, in my youth, I was mostly right. I just didn't yet know that there was an even larger component to that 'active love' but I would certainly be schooled in it as time went on...


So, my first real experience of being in love ended with a crash, in true subtle, ill-defined, non-communicative fashion, where it wasn't ever really understood if we were on a break or broken up, as we kept up the romantic communication an ocean apart... but with distance and time, and no prospect of ever experiencing the real, active love with him, the feelings of in love did indeed fade.

And in the aftermath of those awful feelings, I made the choice - to CHOOSE the choice, of love. To forgo the whole "in love" thing, since it wasn't real, anyway. Who needs feelings when you can rely on God and choose to actively LOVE another one of His children in serving their needs?

And that, ladies and gentleman, is how I entered into a civil marriage. 

No, I was never in love with him. But I will never, ever deny that I loved him. I loved him until it broke me, and then all the little crumbled pieces of me loved him even more. And it was in the midst of that love that I began to understand that real love is sacrifice.

As I began to suspect, and then those suspicions were confirmed, that the love was purely sacrificial and one-sided and NOT Sacramental or valid, my education on what love is continued to deepen. Oh yes, I still love the father of my child, but not at all in the same way, as it became clear part of my sacrifices were sacrificing my own soul in cooperating in sin. And over the coming year, and months, and even to this day, I become more and more in-tuned to what that definition of love is.

So, it is clear that I wish to love, again. But, I *can* love anybody ;) When I said this to my therapist a few months ago, he nodded and said, "Oh, I believe that. You could love a criminal in prison!" (Not sure if that was a compliment... haha.) But more importantly through my self-discovery over the past year+, I know now that I want to allow myself to fall "in love" again. It was the fear of getting hurt, and my avoidance of that, which lead to a love that kept me stuck in place. It is time to set aside that fear and allow myself to go there, again.  To fall in love.


I just hope I remember how...








Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Dating

Hmm.

There was a time when, over at TCIE, you'd see the Title of the new blog post: Dating, and assume it was a post about Pregnancy Dating, perhaps insight from a FertilityCare Practitioner on a client, or even a story of a Sonographer, measuring those tiny little miracles as I've done so many times, before...


If you had told me back in the day that I'd be writing a VERY DIFFERENT post about dating on This Cross I Embrace... well, I would have laughed in your face! Me?? Dating?? 
Joke's on me, cuz here I am.


Something a bit daunting occurred to me as I discerned getting back 'out there' following the declaration of nullity, and that is, I've never dated as an adult! College and post-college relationships were Insta-Serious, and before that, well, the opportunities were few and far between. I had literally been on ONE DATE in my life, as a 17 year old, with someone who wasn't already a "boyfriend." Now, having been civilly married 10 years... the prospect was decidedly more weird.

Armed with the advice of many girlfriends with much more experience than I, I dipped a toe in when the time was right and my discernment was complete. I was mostly nervous about knowing (or not knowing) what I was looking for. I could see that my checklist of desired attributes had been constantly vacillating very early on. "Is he awake at least 6 hours of the day? Excellent, marry me!" to "Oh, weird, he said he was Christian on his profile but he's Catholic, that must mean he's not really proud to be Catholic... delete!" My trust in others, and in myself, was most certainly *off* - and it was a blessing in disguise that the civil divorce process took as long as it did, because I know there would have been NO WAY I was ready to put my best self forward until I did.


But I did.

Very first thing I noticed is that a) it is an entirely different world out there from the last time I was out there (was I ever really out there??) and b) online dating isn't A thing, it's the ONLY thing. Obviously as a single parent it makes things easier for meeting new people, but even the never married, no kids crew seem to congregate to the "hide behind a computer screen/iPhone" world, now.

Weird.

But, I grabbed the reigns and went with the flow.

And, quickly discovered I am not cut out of the same mold as the rest of the online dating population.



Evidently, as a woman in her 30's online dating, I should be:

Asking a man his height before I even know his name.

Ascertaining a man's bank account and timeline for when he thinks he can fertilize my eggs.

Making the first move. Then continuing the make the moves, until it becomes abundantly clear that he has no moves, no thoughts, no opinions, and no cares of his own. #thanksfeminism

Posting pictures of myself jumping on a beach, covered in mud, and with an elephant. (All in one would probably score me even more points.)

Demanding to know when and where all of the man's pictures were taken.

Interested in starting tons of meaningless texting conversations that go on for months on end without ever actually meeting in person.

And, last but not least, open to the "ethical, non-monogamous" relationship possibility.



Now, hopefully you've established that these are not from Catholic-specific sites or apps. But, lest you think it was any better on those, here was the checklist for men on those sites:

CRICKETS (i.e. no contact and no response to messages) from the same men who "like" all of my photos.

Multiple creeper messages pledging their undying love and resolve to make me the "happiest woman on the planet" (boy, do you have me pegged, after all, happiness is all I'm really after...)

Rad Trads who have already established that I'm going to hell since I'm divorced.

Men who seem normal enough... at first... until I let a day go by because, you know, I have more important things to do, and then get the angry "What do I have to do to get you to message me back????? What's the secret???!!!" messages.

Profiles that utterly and completely contradict their actual status.

Fake profiles.




It's a ZOO out there.

And here I am, trying to find my way to the panda exhibit...








Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Pieces of Shrapnel



Are you guys familiar with Kristina Kuzmic? I was introduced to her videos just about a year ago, by someone who came into my life to give advisement and encouragement just at the moment I needed it most. This was one of the first videos I watched.


There is so much here. And I post this not just in an effort to say that I can relate, but in an effort to say that I believe most of you can relate, too. We all have some shitty cards dealt to us by life, some have seemingly insurmountable obstacles and crosses to bear. It only means that the resulting artwork of your life can be THAT MUCH MORE BEAUTIFUL.

I dislike the phrase "everything happens for a reason" so much, even before infertility. No. That's not the point. Shitty things don't happen to good people (or even bad people) for a reason, but because of free will and because we live in a fallen world. Not because it was "meant to" happen.

What we do AFTER the shitty is what matters. (Eloquent, no?)

In Him, all things are made new.