Resilience


The Lessons of My Half Full Cup…Six Years

AUTHOR: | POSTED: 09/24/15 10:33 AM
CATEGORIES: Blog, gratitude, IVF, Logan, perspective, Resilience, thankful

It’s been six years.  Can you believe it?

It was just like today.  Cool, sunny, with blue skies and fluffy white clouds.  I remember opening the windows in my bedroom that morning wondering if today would be the day.   I tried to relax and forget about the kerfuffle surrounding my pregnancy.

When the phone rang and I saw it was Sean I thought he was calling to check in on me.  When he spoke, however, I could hear the hurt in his voice.  “Have you seen the paper?

No, ” I replied.  “I told you I’m not reading the paper or watching television until this baby is born.  I can’t take the stress.”  Our story was the front and center of the  current news cycle and not all of the journalists were getting it right.  It was frustrating to see the details of what was happening to me…to our family…getting botched.  So, I promised to stop chasing my tail trying to correct everything and just concentrate on the health of my pregnancy.

“They went to the bishop for a reaction.  He said we’d committed a mortal sin by using IVF.  That no good could come out of the commission of a sin.

That did it.  I am convinced you can hear blood pressure rising. It makes a buzzing sound in your ears which feel like they are burning off of your head.

I grabbed my cuff, wrapped it around my arm and noted the reading.  145/95.  Time to call the doctor.

*****

 

I’ll never forget the moment right before he was born.  I closed my eyes and waited for the hurt.  Not the hurt of the actual delivery.  The hurt in my heart.  I knew as soon as they cut the cord, he was no longer mine.  I was scared.

Scared of what was coming next.

I’d prepared for the moment.  I’d worked long hard hours with a wonderful therapist who helped both Sean and I reframe the moment.  “Don’t look at it like a loss.  Look at it like a gift.  A gift you get to give another family.  The ultimate gift.”

So that’s what we did.

Here he comes.”  I could feel them digging inside of me.  Trying to get a grip on the little gymnast that was doing anything and everything to evade their efforts.  When they finally lifted him out I clenched my eyes shut.

Here it comes.  The hurt.

Do you want to see him?”  Those were the words that snapped me out of my trance.  Then I heard him cry. A loud, beautiful cry.  My eyes flung open as my instincts took over.

Of course.  Yes.  Yes.  I want to see him.

Then came the gift.

You see, when they held him up over the curtain something magical happened.   As I stared at my baby I realized it didn’t matter that he wasn’t mine.  It didn’t matter that I wasn’t going to get to rock him to sleep, walk him to his classroom on the first day of school, or usher him through his childhood.  This wasn’t about loss.

It was about love.

I knew in that very moment that I loved this child the same way I loved my others.  His birth was a triumph.  His life was a gift.

logan picture 7j

The year after Logan left was tough.  Actually horrible.  I was struggling trying to figure out what to do with my experience.  I wanted so badly for something good to come of the whole thing but I was flailing.  Looking back on it now I realize that I was dealing with a nasty case of post partum depression.  I wish I would’ve taken more time to figure things out—the whole “something good can come of this” sentiment could’ve waited.

logan birth 11

I still get little twinges in my heart when I think of Logan.  And, make no mistake.  I think of him every day.  But time really does give way to polished perspective. Because of Logan I am better able to find my way through tough stuff—and we’ve had some tough stuff.

I also continue to concentrate on being grateful.  A wise man once told me,  “If you keep your eye on gratitude it’s hard to stay depressed.

Although I take issue with the notion that clinical depression is easily combatted with attitude, I understand the sentiment behind his statement.  So, I walk with gratitude.  Actually…sometimes I stomp.   I’ve learned I can be grateful and angry at the same time.

logan birth 3j

I still go to mass every Sunday even though Drew explained I was pretty much excommunicated.  At least, that’s what he told me one day after his high school theology class, “You know, Mom, no one has to actually tell you you’re excommunicated.  You just are if you commit a mortal sin and don’t seek forgiveness.

Hmmm.  What do you think about that?”  I asked as we casually drove home from school.

I think Jesus would be okay with you saving Logan’s life.   Religion and it’s rules are man made you know.

He went to St. Johns Jesuit and was taught to think.

I love the Jesuits.

logan birth 11

So, it’s been six years.  Six years of unexpected blessings and hardships.  Six years of happiness and challenges.  And, six years of gratitude and perspective.  To say that Logan was a gift sounds kind of cliche—but he was.  He was not only a gift we gave to another family, but also a gift we received that has guided us.

We are stronger because of him.  We are wiser because of him.  We love more deeply because of him.

He is my half full cup.

Happy Birthday, Little Man.

logan birth

 

 

Remembering The Value of Suffering

AUTHOR: | POSTED: 10/20/14 1:32 PM
CATEGORIES: Blog, compassionate parenting, perspective, Resilience

Sean and I have spent our entire parenting careers trying to instill certain values in our children.  They are the same values that were instilled in us by our own parents and to us they are platitudes to live by and remember.  And, my guess is, they aren’t all that unique.  Good people don’t become good people without walking a certain talk and sharing certain values.

The values of dedication and diligence; honesty and integrity; and compassion and humility have always been common threads of our parent-speak.  Those lessons are so well-intended but, I fear there is one lesson about reality we forgot to instill in our kids.

An unpleasant one at that.

Teaching our kids to live a good life–to be a good person–always includes the aforementioned virtues.  But somewhere down the line, I allowed my children to assume that if you live a certain way;  if you walk a certain talk; if you work hard and consistently;  if you tell the truth and live honorably;  if you are kind to others putting their needs ahead of your own the people around you will value your efforts.  You will be rewarded.

And that isn’t always the case.

Because life is often unfair.

I suppose teaching our children about the unfairness of the world  is something that we, as protective parents, have a hard time doing.  We want to shield our children from pain, and we fear that if we lift the veil on the randomness of loss, we’ll scare them–or discourage them.  Teaching about unfairness is also kind of tricky.  I can tell a six year old that if she practices her piano her teacher will be happy; or explain to a fifteen year old that his academic efforts will  be rewarded when it comes college admissions time.  Those lessons are  fairly objective.  But the world isn’t always black and white.

Subjectivity can be confusing.

We all know that unfairness always comes.  Sometimes because of random acts of nature.  Other times at the hands of people. And what makes it scary is that we can’t explain it. The “why” is absent.   So we struggle.

Struggling is difficult.   Watching your child struggle is excruciating.

Obviously, Sean and I are currently experiencing a situation with one of our children that has rattled us.  I think one of the reasons it’s been so unsettling is because the rationale behind the situation flys in the face of the virtues we’ve worked so hard to instill.  In this case, our child’s dedication and diligence; honesty and integrity; and compassion and humility was completely disregarded.  The situation was a blindside and like everything unfair–the “why” is absent.

Kids are resilient, though. I keep telling myself this.  I will admit my child isn’t handling the situation the way I would handle it.  But—that’s okay.  My child isn’t me.  I have to honor that.  All I can do is be present;  be respectful;  and be willing to listen and guide if the need presents itself.  I also have to repress my urge to rip the face off of the person who has led us down this path.  That, my friends,  is a feat.  (Ahem…I am nine months pregnant.  I’m guessing I might be able to plea temporary insanity in the event of losing control.)

Of course, that would help no one.

Last week Sean and I were recounting times in our lives where the virtues we live by didn’t seem to matter.  As a result, the lesson about life being unfair came up.  I also confided in my dad.  He reminded me that unfairness usually leads to valuable life lessons.  Of course, at the time, I didn’t really want to hear it—sometimes I need to wallow a bit— but deep down I knew he was right.

Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls;  the most massive characters are seared with scars.

Kahlil Gibran

Being screwed over always hurts.  Watching your child get screwed over is even more painful, but time does manage to heal.   If there is healthy support the lessons of suffering can pave the way to a deeper understanding of the world and the people around us.  Suffering builds strength and,  if channeled positively, can give the gifts of compassion and perspective.  Good can come of this.  It still hurts, though.

Of course, this won’t be the first unfair thing that happens to my child.  It also, probably–and sadly–won’t be the worst.  It’s an important lesson.  One that I hope causes a double down of efforts to be dedicated and diligent in work; to live honestly and with integrity in  life; and treat others with compassion while remembering the importance of humility.

That’s where I’m hanging my hat this morning.

Now onward.

*****

I know, I know.  This was a heavier than normal post for me.  Rest assured, tomorrow I’ll return as my normal, silly self.  Just needed to get this off my chest.  There.  I feel better now.

Five Candles

AUTHOR: | POSTED: 09/24/14 12:37 PM
CATEGORIES: Blog, Focusing on The Joy, Logan, Resilience

Blessings do not take away life’s pain, they just tuck it into a smaller part of your soul

September 24,2009 – I sat next to Carolyn holding her hand with full hospital garb on as she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, a boy we held as our own for a few precious moments.  I held him up to Carolyn’s face so she could capture a good glance and revel in his presence before the inevitable.  I departed that room with several nurses and the baby to a room which held the people who would leave the hospital with him for life.  An intensely emotional moment as I delivered Carolyn’s sacrifice, a newest of newborns to this exuberant mom and dad while the crushing blow of this loss struck our hearts.   Tears ran down my face as I saw the baby boy Carolyn had carried since February in the arms of another mother and I knew he was never coming back.  The moment was a gift of humanity to others wrapped in personal pain. Tonight I imagine there are five candles on his birthday cake as he celebrates an important milestone with his family.  With the passing of five years I decided to share some perspective time has given me about this sea change in my life.

The baby boy and his mom and dad are fortunate Carolyn is such a strong and principled person. Her determination to see the pregnancy through at her own physical and mental peril is the reason he lived and made it to September 24, 2009.  How many people given the same facts would have made the same choices?

Woman endure so much with their body and mind during pregnancy and to carry a child for complete strangers and voluntarily let go for life in the delivery room takes strength beyond my comprehension. I think that is why the world took notice.

Carolyn and I get a personal peek into Logan’s life a couple of hours one time per year. As he gets older we are uncertain if these opportunities will continue to arise, but Carolyn and I are grateful for any time with him.  He is a handsome boy with boundless energy who is loved by his parents .  As he gets older and learns of his entry into the world he will hopefully know the love Carolyn and I have for him.

My biggest surprise over the past five years is how little those around us ask of Logan or mention anything about the pregnancy or aftermath.  I am sure those who have experienced traumatic loss  can appreciate this phenomenon.   My advice is to not avoid these types of discussions.  The dark side of the moon is there even if you cannot see it.  Ask people how they are doing who have different types of pain in their past.  It is therapeutic to talk about it.

Although we received loving support from so many around the world as our story became public, there were those who showered us with criticism and hate.  I think that is to be expected when you publicly share your story.  Carolyn and I are Catholic and the Catholic people were great, but the Catholic Church simply abandoned us. I believe Jesus and His Mother Mary would have embraced Carolyn and I and said….  well done.

The personal blessings bestowed upon us by God over the past five years are more than we deserve.  Our gratitude for the blessing of Isabella and Reagan in August, 2011 through the loving support of Jennifer, who carried them, is beyond words.  And then our most recent unexpected twist of Carolyn’s pregnancy left me speechless.  I am so excited for our sixth child to arrive in November. We could have never imagined while in the delivery room five years ago that our family was only half complete.  Blessings do not take away life’s pain, they just tuck it into a smaller part of your soul.  I know I am blessed to be able to walk through life with Carolyn and have Drew, Ryan, Mary Kate, Isabella, Reagan and our soon-to-be baby boy as children.

As for Logan, I continue to wish him good health, happiness and love as we imagine him blowing out  five candles tonight.

logan birth 6j

“Stop Worrying about It. It’s Done. I Survived” A Worthwhile Piece of Advice

AUTHOR: | POSTED: 02/18/14 1:57 PM
CATEGORIES: 1015 The River, Blog, Blogging Honestly, Food on the Fly, Glass City Parent, perspective, Recipes, Resilience, thankful

Yesterday held a mixed bag for me.  It was a planned day off from school and in attempt to do something outside the four walls of our home I schlepped the kids to the other end of town with the promise of some fun at a Lego play center.   After a forgotten purse, a trip back home and then back to Lego land Reagan vomited on the sidewalk right as we were getting out of the car.  She was car sick because  I had dressed her too warmly and should’ve adjusted her clothing when the 15 mile ride became a 45 mile trek.

All my fault!

The entire episode got me thinking about all the times in my almost twenty years of parenting that I’d screwed up.  I’ve forgotten to sign permission slips and packed my kids the crappiest of lunches because I had nothing of substance in the cupboards.  Once I lost seven year old Drew in the Orlando airport, and when the boys were three and five I thought they had lice and shaved their heads only to learn the next day they had dandruff.  When Drew was an infant he fell off the couch twice because I didn’t know he could roll over.

TWICE!  Apparently I had no idea how it happened the first time.

Honestly, I could go on and on about how, due to my preoccupation, absent-mindedness or just plain stupidity, I’ve put my kids in less than optimal situations.

Not too long ago I was lamenting to Drew about losing him in the airport.

Me:  Do you remember it?

Drew:  Yes.  I got on the tram before you and you turned around and the doors shut and off I went.

Me:  Do you remember what you thought when that happened?

Drew:  Um.  Yes.  I figured I’d get off at baggage claim and wait for you.  It wasn’t rocket science, Mom.  I was fine.

We went on to talk about some of the other mom fails that are so deeply embedded in my memory.    He laughed off the crappy lunches because apparently he traded most of it away.  He has no memory of having a shaved head and was just glad to know that he never had lice as a child.  He does remember me tripping him with my purse strap as he left our church pew to take up the gifts during his first communion mass but apparently it didn’t scar him…although he’s never taken up the gifts again.  And, he thinks that maybe his two falls off the couch as an infant are the reason he can’t do a back dive.

In the end his general consensus was  “No harm, no foul.  Now stop worrying about it.  It’s done.  I survived.“.

*****

Ever since the moment I found out I was pregnant with Logan I’ve thought about how badly my fertility doctor felt about what had happened.  Devastated doesn’t even seem to capture my doctor’s emotional state on that first evening.  I remember the immediate days after finding out about my mistaken pregnancy and worrying about the professionals responsible.  I knew there had been no malice.  No one had done this to me on purpose.   I also knew that they hadn’t gone into their professions to cause this kind of emotional strife.  They wanted to help families—not hurt them—yet there we all stood.

It was an awful mess.

Five years have since passed and although I’ll probably never say, “no harm, no foul” about what happened, I’ve learned a little something about forgiveness  from my kids.  Although my parenting misteps have probably–at times–negatively impacted the trajectory of their days, they are resourceful little souls who take life as it comes. They move forward as best they can dealing with the deck they’ve been dealt.

Stop worrying about it. It’s done.  I survived.

*****

When I put Reagan to bed last night I gave her some extra back-scratch cuddle time trying to ease my guilt from earlier in the day.  For some reason God has been so good to me by allowing me to parent my five children.  I often don’t even know how to articulate how grateful I am for my life, and when I screw it up I get so down on myself because I want to be worthy of being the person my family deserves.  I’m guessing a lot of mothers feel this way at times.  That’s when I think it’s imperative to realize that the only thing we can do after a screw-up is vow to learn from the mistake and do our best to never to let it happen again.  I communicated that message to a fertility doctor a few years back.   It’s probably time I took my own advice to heart.

Stop worrying about it.  It’s done.  They survived.

Now onward.

*****

A few pics from our weekend…

Bedtime sister silliness

Bedtime sister silliness

DSC_0009

Sister love

Sister love

"Doin hair, Mom."

“Doin hair, Mom.”

Taking turns, "doin hair."

Taking turns, “doin hair.”

 

Sacked out.

Sacked out.

 

It was Valerie's birthday this past week.  Valerie is our the Savage family life-saver.  She watches the girls so I can actually get some stuff done without neglecting them!  She is a true blessing in our lives!

It was Valerie’s birthday this past week. Valerie is our the Savage family life-saver. She watches the girls so I can actually get some stuff done without neglecting them! She is a true blessing in our lives!

*****

For the recipe we talked about on Wednesday’s 101.5 The River Segment please see this blog post!

A Visit and That Pit

AUTHOR: | POSTED: 10/21/13 1:59 PM
CATEGORIES: Blog, college, perspective, Resilience, saying goodbye

Drew came home this past weekend.  It was his first visit since leaving two months ago and to say I was excited is an understatement.  Of course, I’ve been hoping and praying for over a year now that Drew experiences an easy transition to college.  Home sickness  was not something I wanted him to experience but it would be dishonest for me to say that I wasn’t a little bit happy to hear he wanted to come home for the weekend.  He loves college, but he still loves it here, too.

Perfect.

On Friday afternoon the girls and I set off to pick him up.  He’d wrangled a ride to a small town about thirty miles from Toledo and as we made our way through the newly harvested farm fields I smiled.  The anticipation of having all of my children under one roof made me happy.  As we pulled into the parking lot of our meeting spot and Drew emerged from the car Isabella yelled, “There he is!”  and the girls clapped and clapped.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one happy to see him.

We spent the weekend bouncing from football games to cross country races.  We ate Drew’s favorite home cooked meals and ordered out from his favorite local pizzaria.  I worked my way through the mountain of laundry he brought with him and baked banana bread to tuck into his bag when he left.  We took a few minutes to pose for a family picture in the back yard marking the occasion of being together.  As always, Saturday bled into Sunday and in the blink of an eye it was time for Drew to head back.  It was just the two of us as we made our way east to meet his ride back to Athens.  We talked about upcoming exams and Thanksgiving vacation and made a last minute grocery run to shore up his stockpile of dorm food.  We squeezed as much as we could out of 48 hours… but then it was time.

Saying goodbye is always bittersweet.

I’m so happy he loves college and has had a fairly uneventful transition.  I’m still excited to see how his future unfolds but as I pulled away I felt that pit in my stomach again.   How did we get to this place so quickly?   Didn’t he just start kindergarten?I’m beginning to realize that the pit may always be with me but as I get used to this next phase of parenting I will learn to grow accustomed to it’s presence.  I think that’s called acceptance…with a side of optimism.

Because, of course, one can’t spend too much time thinking about how life used to be.  It would dim the bright light of the future.

Now onward.

*****

A little glimpse of our weekend…

St. Johns Jesuit won the district title for cross country this past Saturday in a bit of an upset.  On to regionals next Saturday.  Ryan is working hard...along with his teammates.

St. Johns Jesuit won the cross country district title this past Saturday in a bit of an upset. On to regionals next Saturday. Ryan (#379) is working hard…along with his teammates.

Prayer Request...This is Ryan's teammate, Tevin.  Tevin's mom is battling a serious illness right now.  Please keep her in your prayers.  She needs all she can get!  (Printed with permission.)

Prayer Request…This is Ryan’s teammate, Tevin. Tevin’s mom is battling a serious illness right now. Please keep her  and her family in your prayers. She needs all she can get! (Printed with permission.)

My monkeys...

My monkeys…

 

DSC_0082DSC_0083

Little ham's!

Little ham’s!

With a tripod!  The twins thought me running for the shot was hysterical.  Who knew that would get them to look and smile?

Shot with a tripod! The twins thought me running for the shot was hysterical. Who knew that would get them to look and smile simultaneously?