Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Navigating the Anniversaries

In retrospect, perhaps it wasn't the most emotionally  savvy idea I've ever had, volunteering at a children's clothing consignment sale this weekend. If you've never been to one of these, you should know that it could be otherwise known as a pregnancy festival or a family-with-a-bajillion-kids gathering. Certainly, it's a virtual field of land mines for people with fertility issues or infant loss of any kind, particularly those who had a miscarried child's due date to remember this weekend.

But there is no gentle or loving way to tell the woman who has just given birth 3 weeks before and exclaims "I am SO glad not to be pregnant anymore, I am DONE with having babies!" that you'd give anything to be in her shoes and shouldn't be she be thankful for her children? (Especially when you remember the feeling of being glad your own pregnancy was done so you could sleep again. Or at least think about sleeping again. Ha.) There is no way to quickly answer the question that every volunteer feels compelled to ask- "How many children do you have?" -without being reminded of your baby's loss and the times you've come close to an adoption but seen it fall through. Again. And why, why, does it seem that when you tell people you are adopting, they ALWAYS ask you from which country? And when you respond that you are adopting domestically, they seem disappointed. What is THAT?
Whole outfit = $15. He insisted on wearing it  right away.

So yeah, maybe I shouldn't have volunteered. But my yearning need for a good deal (and the wide chasm of emptiness that comprised my son's winter wardrobe) overrode any emotional good sense I might've developed over the last 4 years. If you volunteer, you get to go to the pre-sale and everybody knows that's where the good stuff is. My kid is now ready for his first ever big snow storm. A few months early, but hey.

Navigating the anniversaries can be really hard. Our little girl might have turned 4 this past weekend. She might be running around the backyard with my son and our neighbors even as I type this. I say "might have" because nothing is guaranteed. If we hadn't lost her during pregnancy, she could have easily passed on in early infancy or through some childhood illness or accident. Nothing at all is ever certain and the thing I'm learning about these anniversaries is that if I let myself fantasize about what she might be doing now, I only make it worse because I create a false reality. I only get sadder, I only imagine I see glimpses of what she might have looked like or which of our traits she might express as she grows and which things she would do that would make us wonder from where in the world she came. Dreaming about those things does me no good and only distracts me from the family and friends I have here with me. In the now. And it doesn't help to actually remember her, because none of my imaginings are actually who she would've been. Don't our kids always surpass our own imaginations?

One thing I can say is that this year there was a change for me. The past three years I knew it was September long before I noticed the calendar. I'd feel on edge, angrier than usual about stories about children being abandoned or killed at birth, frustrated at irresponsible birth fathers, missing the children we still don't have, snapping at people who said the wrong thing. But this year, I had to look at the calendar. I had to purposefully notice that mid-September was approaching. Maybe I'm just busy with all the "new" in our lives or trying to desperately remember how to be a serious student. But it snuck up on me. So, I wore my special necklace, the one that reminds me of Amara, and there was just a sweet remembering this time. The ache is fading a little, it doesn't make me as sad as it used to. I'm not crazy enough to think that next year will be the same or easier.  I am sure I'll be surprised as each one comes around to see what new thing God is doing in my healing. What a gift, though, to feel like I could just be present this year. That my mourning had taken a turn, was mostly just a time of remembering and then being reminded to continue to dream about what may come this coming year.

 No matter what, even the hard anniversaries are good. They remind me of God's presence, of his deep care for me even when I was pretty convinced he was punishing me or abandoning me, of all the amazing people in my life who have loved me well during this crazy process and who are going through challenging and often similiar experiences of their own and of the fact that my story is far from complete.

God gave me the gift of hope this time around and that is no small thing.

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