Greetings! This is my first experience marching with the Barren Bitches Book Brigade. It is the fourteenth stop on the “tour” and I am thoroughly enjoying being a part of the group this time around. For those of you not familiar with this online Adoption, Loss, &/or Infertility (ALI) Book Club, each month a book is chosen that in some way relates to adoption, infertility and/or loss. Readers then proceed to sign-up to participate in the book club for that given book and month. On a given date our inspiring leader Melissacollects one question from each reader. A few days later we all receive a list of questions (that were posed by our fellow book club members, each participant submits one question) from which we are to choose three or more to answer on our blog in a post the following week. There are two groups (A & B). From what I understand we receive two separate lists of questions. Group A posts their answers on their blogs Monday and Group B (of which I am a part of this month) posts their answers on their blogs Tuesday.The book that those of us marching in the Brigade this month read was Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I imagine that most of you have at least heard of it, if not read it yourself as it is a New York Times Bestseller and the author was a guest on Oprah. I really enjoyed the book and I appreciate what Gilbert shared about her life and growth through the challenges she has faced and experiences that she has had, many of which she sought out with the specific goal of learning and evolving. For those who may not have read Eat, Pray, Love, reading the questions below and my answers I don’t think will give away too much about the book, so you are certainly welcome to read on if you are interested.
So here are the three questions I chose to consider and my answers to them (please feel free to comment and share your thoughts about the questions and/or my answers):
Question 1: Elizabeth Gilbert’s spiritual crisis was brought to a head by a failing marriage and the dawning realization that her desires were not nearly on the same track as some seemingly powerful, external expectations about how her life should unfold. What defining ‘disasters’ have triggered you to course-correct your life? Did the crisis(es) sneak up on you or did you see it (them) coming, but deny it for a while? What expectations did it force you to challenge — either your own or external ones? How hard was that for you personally (as in, are you the kind of temperament that is naturally rebellious? Or not so much? Do you have a hard time letting go of control? Or are you at ease with improv on a grand, spiritual level?)
One of the defining disasters that triggered me to course-correct my life was six years ago at the beginning of September 2002 when I was let go after three years in my first “real world” job. At that time I realized that I was not on the right track with my career goals. I don’t think I saw it coming. I knew that I worked for a dysfunctional organization and I had begun to look for another job in the same field (recreation/program management) I was in before I was released. That said, the few opportunities that came along I did not seriously pursue as I was very loyal to my employer, in part because they had hired me right after I graduated with my Masters, which in the end came back to bite me.
I had been mentored at my job by a workaholic who seemed to care most about power and awards. She was trying to get me to follow in her unhealthy footsteps, she claimed to be my friend, in addition to being my boss, however ultimately she was the one who delivered the news on my last day there that I could “choose to resign” or be fired. I “chose” to resign, instead of being officially let go and fighting what I believed was an unjust release, after my father encouraged me to look forward and not make my life about what had “happened to me” and rather learn what I could from my experience and move on. Thank you Dad.
Amazingly after this blow to my self-esteem, I landed on my feet. I found and began an awesome new job just three weeks later with a much more functional organization. I realized during what turned out to be a brief job search that I was not as interested in a career that would bring me power and attention as I once had been. Its ironic that I ever got to a point where I wanted those things, as my chosen profession is not the kind that one would typically go into if they had such aspirations. I quickly discovered though that no matter what field you are in there are always going to be power hungry people who will do whatever it takes along the way to try to get to the top. I learned that I wanted a professional vocation that would allow me to help others and to also make a difference in the world (or at least my little corner of it) and yet I didn’t want it to be the main focus of my life.
At the time Bob and I had been married for two years and before losing my previous job I had become in many ways a workaholic like my “mentor.” Bob and I both knew this had to change for the good of our relationship however it took my “resigning” to make this happen. When I reflect on this time in my life I also find it interesting that in April of that year (2002) Bob and I had unofficially begun to try to conceive (TTC) our first child. We did not have success for many months, which felt like an eternity back then. If I had known what our journey to try to have another child would become, that time would have seemed like nothing, but I didn’t have the perspective that I do now. I often wonder if my addiction to working in those days contributed to our not being able to conceive initially.
When I began my new vocation towards the end of that September in 2002, I absolutely loved my work! My new job was with a very healthy and functional organization (which also happened to be faith-based, a new experience and atmosphere for me). Bob and I actually took my first month there “off” from TTC as we both agreed it didn’t seem right for me to become pregnant so quickly after starting my new position and at that point I don’t think we really believed it would happen for us that easily anyway. In the months to follow we resumed our efforts to begin our family to no avail. However, for the first time since we had started TTC I wasn’t extremely disappointed, as I was so happy in my new job and our marriage was much healthier now that I was working more regular hours with a new supervisor who modeled for me how to have a great work-life balance.
This job change contributed to me living a healthier and more peaceful life which I believe may have in part led to Bob and I being blessed to find out in January 2003 that we were expecting our first child, our now almost five year old son Sean! We were over the moon to find out we were going to be parents, however it was also bittersweet as I had grown to so enjoy my new vocation and when Sean was born I started yet another vocation, that I also really love, being a Stay at Home Mom.
As I have already shared, this experience of losing my job and being forced to find a new one challenged me to revisit what was most important to me in my work and the organizations that I work for. It was very humbling for me to realize that though I didn’t believe that I “deserved” to be let go from my first full time job in the professional world, I certainly wasn’t perfect. I had made plenty of mistakes and had many opportunities for growth along the way. Searching for a new job gave me the chance to reform my priorities in life and led me to a more fulfilling vocation. This experience also ultimately brought me to a place where my mind and body were apparently in sync enough to allow the miracle of our son to be conceived, sustained and born healthy into this world in October 2003.
It’s interesting when I first thought about how I would answer this question, it seemed obvious to me that I might talk about what I have learned from my journey with our daughter Molly (who, for those who are new to my blog, is our baby girl that was born and died just over four months ago). However, the more I digested the question, the more I realized that long before my Molly-girl came into my life I had other pivotal experiences that had challenged who I thought I was, who I wanted to be and how I envisioned my work and my home life. I thought back to some of those key times in my life and felt compelled to share about how this one helped to shape my current identity.
Question 2: In Elizabeth’s journey, she meets several characters … Richard (who calls her ‘Groceries’) and Ketut and Italy itself … who see her ‘from outside of the frame,’ who offer her valuable, catalytic perspective and they help her to penetrate her misery. Who are the characters in your own life that have performed/perform this role for you? What have they helped you to understand? … Sometimes perspective can come from a book, rather than a person IRL … so if it was a book that gave you this gift, which one(s)?
Though there have been many characters throughout my life that have performed this role for me, there is one who in the past year probably helped me the most to gain a new perspective on my situation (which at the time was my struggle with secondary infertility). I have actually posted about this person and what she helped me to understand before in this post, however I want to share again about what I learned from her, as I think it continues to be such an important lesson for me to keep in mind as I go forward in life, no matter what curve balls life throws me and my family. Rather than retell the story completely, here is an excerpt from my originally post:
I got an email recently from a very good friend of our family who has a son that was born with Downs Syndrome. Her son is now in his thirties and we grew up together like cousins, as our families have always been close. She sent the email the day of my Feed the Feeders post, in part to comment on and reply to it, as she and my mom have know each other since her son and I were babies and she very much agreed with my mom’s advice to me that day. She shared in her email what is was like to raise a son with Downs Syndrome and how she helps, through her job working with couples who have children with Downs Syndrome deal with day to day life, when they never expected their lives to turn out as they have. She made analogies to the comments I get sometimes, dealing with secondary infertility, and the unfortunate things that people, who do not understand what it is to have a child with Downs Syndrome, will say to parents who do.
Then she went on to say how much it surprises and saddens her, every now and then, when parents of children with Downs Syndrome aren’t able to apply what they have learned, from how they may have been treated, to other areas in their lives, such as being open minded about people of other races or ethnicities and they will make racest or other such offensive comments. Bottom line: she shared that she hopes all people who go through trials in their lives, such as the one Bob and I are living through now, can apply their experiences to be able to be more sensitive in general to other people’s feelings and situations, no matter what the details of their plights are. None of us know what it is like to walk in another person’s shoes, however we can try harder to think before we speak and try to imagine what it might be like for us, if we were given the hand someone else was dealt, before we make judgments or say things that they might take offense to.
Question 3: Gilbert talks about finding herself again and feeling a glimmer of happiness when she started studying Italian, “a faint potentiality for happiness after such dark times you must grab onto the ankles of that happiness and not let go until it drags you face-first out of the dirt–this is not selfishness, but obligation.” After living through a dark time, what was it that brought you a glimmer of happiness? How hard was it to hang onto?
After our first miscarriage in December of 2004, I definitely went through a dark time in my life. My pregnancy with Sean had been relatively textbook and uneventful (in a good way) and thus though I knew that pregnancy loss was always a possibility, when we found out we were expecting again in November of 2004 (after only TTC#2 for about four months) we were ecstatic and in many ways took for granted that our pregnancy might not lead to a live baby when we were due in July of 2005. I hadn’t even made it to might first pre-natal appointment when I started spotting at about 7 weeks gestation the weekend after Thanksgiving that year. We went in for blood work and an ultrasound (u/s). My HCG level was much lower than it should have been for as far along as I was supposed to be and the u/s tech was not able to find a heartbeat. I passed our first angel baby at home later that week and that was my harsh introduction to the world of pregnancy loss (little did I know it wouldn’t be the last time we said goodbye to a baby that we wanted so much and were hoping and praying would be joining our family here on earth).
Unlike our pregnancy with Sean when we told our immediate families and close friends within a week of my first positive home pregnancy test, this time we had told no one in real life (IRL) our news. I had shared with a few of my online friends who were also TTC#2 at the time. So it was especially hard to us to tell our family and close friends that we had been pregnant and that we had lost the baby at the same time. Since they hadn’t known we were expecting in the first place it was a lot for them to digest. Very few of our family members and friends had experience themselves, or with loved ones, miscarrying and thus though they tried to be caring and supportive, for the most part they didn’t know what to do or say to help us work through our grief.
It did help me to talk about my sadness with some family members and friends after we lost our first angel baby, however what ultimately helped to bring me out of the darkness and give me that glimmer of happiness was when I began to make exercise a higher priority in my life. Within the first few months after our first miscarriage I started working hard to get my body into better shape and to be healthier overall in terms of what I was eating. This quest led me to get into the best shape of my life! I had never felt better or stronger physically, which also helped me in many ways to feel better and stronger emotionally. I was approached by one of the owners where I had started attending regular group exercise classes about training to become a group fitness instructor. I was honored to be asked and did learn how to be an instructor and started teaching in that summer of 2005 (right around the time our first angel baby would have been due).
After our third pregnancy loss, my interstitial ectopic in November 2005, we had to take 6 months off from TTC while my uterus recovered. I was determined to make the most of our “break” and during that time I studied very hard for and passed the American Council on Exercise (A.C.E.) certification exam for group fitness instructors! I also learned to run and then went on to train for and ran in my first 5K race! During our “break” I also tried to focus my time and energy on our son and appreciating the wonderful gift we have in him. I tried to make the most of being his mom, instead of being obsessed with not being able to mother additional children at the time.
Since that time, exercise has continued to be a great healer for me. As soon as I could after every loss, including our most recent and painful one (our baby girl Molly Marie) in April, I have jumped back into getting in shape as soon as I could when I felt physically and emotionally ready. I also have returned to teaching group fitness classes. I love the way I feel when I exercise and as an instructor I also really like to be able to help others get into shape and feel healthier in both their minds and bodies.
If our first miscarriage had never happened I might be blessed with two or more living children right now. I can only imagine how awesome that could have been, however I might also be overweight and not as healthy, which is where I found myself in December 2004. I am not sure if and when another life experience would have caused me to realize the importance of exercise and eating healthier and thus who knows the consequences that might have led me to. To use an Oprahism, “one thing I know for sure” is that whether or not we ever add another child or children to our family, either biologically or through adoption, I will always prioritize taking good care of my body (and thus also my mind and spirit) in a way that I had not done consistently in my adult life before we lost our first angel baby.
Thank you for reading! I know this post was very long winded. As my regular readers know, being concise is not one of my strong suits, though it is something I am continually working to improve on. I find blogging to be very therapeutic and yet I did not expect to have so much to say in my answers to each of these three questions. It was an awesome experience for me to reflect on some of my pivotal life experiences as I processed and developed my answers. I really enjoyed Eat, Pray, Love and this, my first, experience in the Barren Bitches Book Brigade! I am not sure if I will be marching along next month, as it will be a busy month and I might not be able to commit to finishing the book in time, as well as the questions, answers and commenting part; however I do plan to join in again sometime in the future. Special thanks to Melissa for organizing yet another amazing opportunity for our ALI community to learn and grow together.
For those of you also in the club this month, I have already enjoyed reading and commenting on many of your blog posts in which you answered the questions you chose to ponder and I look forward to reading and commenting on more of them in the days to come. Ciao!
Hop along to another stop on this blog tour by visiting the main list at Stirrup Queens. You can also sign up for the next book on this online book club: Baby Trail by Sinead Moriarty (with author participation).