Thursday, October 20, 2011


I’m not sure exactly where this post will end up (and I’m not even sure if it will ever get published although I suppose if you’re reading it I did in fact post it), but I feel the need to at least attempt to put in writing the culmination of thoughts and feelings I’ve been having for some time now.

I want everyone to know who reads my blog now or anytime in the future that I am completely aware of how incredibly lucky I am to have children.  I am blessed to be able to say that both Frances and George were conceived very quickly and easily; my pregnancies and labor were nothing but normal and predictable.  But for whatever reason, maybe from reading many articles on the subject or empathizing with friends and family, I can feel that overwhelming ache that women must suffer when such a miracle doesn’t come as easily—the taboo subject of infertility.  It’s as if I have felt that pain before—whether it was in some imagined “former life” or whether it is just in the basement rooms of my brain where I stored my innermost fears when Will and I were first trying for children.  “What if we can’t have any?”  “What if it never happens?”  “What if…”  Such thinking is often my survival mechanism for certain pivotal life moments— as my mother calls it, I tend to “awfulize.” 

I have no idea why some women are able to get pregnant while others struggle.  Obviously there are countless physical reasons that come into play on both sides of the coin.  But beyond that, I wish I knew (or maybe I don’t want to know) why I have been given this great gift of children.  The oft-quoted phrase “there but for the grace of God go I” comes to mind—that God has simply blessed me with a family as randomly as if I had just won the lottery.  But that notion frustrates me; why have I been blessed while others were not?  Why is that fair?  What have I done to earn this blessing (which I can wholeheartedly answer – very little)?  And maybe most disturbing, why are others not deserving of such incredible fortune?

I am about 3/4s of the way done with a very interesting but intense autobiography called “Lit.”  I don’t even know why I am reading it or why I thought I would like it – it’s the story of the talented author/poet Mary Karr’s struggle with alcoholism and depression, particularly as a young mother.  Sounds uplifting, yes?  But for whatever reason, this book has grabbed me.  Ms. Karr is a phenomenal writer, so dismal subject aside I am in heaven reading her prose.  Beyond that, she is brutally honest about her actions, thoughts and feelings during her darkest moments of addiction and recovery, which deserve much admiration from anyone not brave enough to admit even contemplating an inkling of her life choices. 

Perhaps most inspiring for me though is her struggle with prayer—one of the necessary steps in her regulated recovery program (is anyone else surprised that AA uses prayer as a part of its platform?).  The author describes herself as agnostic, has practiced cynicism down to an art form, and after a lifetime of substance abuse and mental illness (starting with both of her parents when she was still in the womb) is understandably hesitant to pray to a higher power, much less get down on her knees and thank or ask God (or god with a little “g” – she can hardly bring herself to say that word) for anything.  But after a serious relapse and a realization that she nearly orphaned her precious three-year-old son, she finds herself doing just that – kneeling in prayer.  I have loved every word of her toil and I couldn’t possibly do it justice in my writing (particularly since she is about 1,000 times better at describing it).  Her early prayers are humorously and sacrilegiously riddled with curse words (so much so that I felt a little fearful laughing along with her as though I would be struck by the proverbial lightning bolt).  But they are heartfelt and begrudgingly she realizes that her prayers are working.

If I am being completely honest with myself, genuine structured prayer is not something I come to organically.  I don’t regularly (or ever) kneel next to my bed and thank whoever is listening for my auspicious life.  I do make a daily, sometimes hourly, effort to step back from the present moment and express silent gratitude for my family, my friends and my role in this world (in fact, this is one of my primary reasons why I write this blog; to help me slow down and put in black and white as eloquently as possible how grateful I really am).  But if “Lit” has taught me anything, it is that prayer—honest, heart-felt, knee-bending prayer—may just be the missing link in life.

And all of this brings me full circle to my first thoughts—children.  If anything or anyone can convince me to kneel in prayer, it is Frances and George.  For many years, I have not wanted for anything (and I don’t mean that in a ‘we have all the riches in the world’ notion – I just happen to not want or need much); I have had no reason to ask God for anything, other than the occasional “please don’t let this plane crash!” request.  But I am eternally grateful for my family—more so than I ever thought possible.  Stomach-churning, white-knuckling, lump-in-my-throat, crawl-on-the-floor grateful.  And a small (but getting bigger) part of me wants to make sure that the silent universe understands how much I appreciate my blessings; and how much I ache for those souls who look at mothers and children and wonder if they do fully grasp how blessed they are.  As a member of that latter class, I want you to know—I get it.  I am lucky.  I am blessed.  And I want nothing but for those of you who want children to be able to experience the same ups and downs, joys and sorrows, bone-dragging exhaustion and sky-reaching anxiety that children bring.  I will do my best to remember those who cannot have what I undoubtedly often take for granted, that I must, will, and do give thanks.

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

from Mary Oliver's "The Summer Day"
[Thank you, Sara, for letting me steal your quote!]

And thank you all for listening.  Happy Thursday!

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