When meeting your husbands girlfriend…

it is important to remember that, like wild animals, they are probably more afraid of you than you are of them. 

Since yesterdays phone call, when the “big meet and greet” was scheduled, I have tried to figure out what the hell I was feeling.  Not mad or jealous.  I no longer love LK.  Not anger or rage.  I can’t see any way in which that helps me to heal or be a good mother or person.  So, what was it?  Confusion?  Sure.  Anxiety?  A little.  Fortunately, today I had a previously scheduled appointment with my therapist.

I asked her if it was that I “didn’t care” and whether I was putting Jack’s safety at risk in order to allow LK access to Jack, which I think is such an important part of Jack’s life.  She reminded me that if the deal was that Jack could be with his father, but they would be riding motorcycles around I-285, then I would certainly not allow it.  This is a meeting with someone who may be a good influence on Jack, another person to love him, someone to help keep him safe.  And my goal in life is to raise Jack to be healthy and happy, make sure that every person available to love him is allowed to do so.  She reminded me that it was okay to let others do that, even if I was the best at it.

I was okay most of the day, and for the most part, the reactions from friends and family were that I was handling it well, being impartial until I had all the facts, and taking the high road in working towards a Jack-centered solution.  Unfortunately, a few people have to add things like “well, I knew it, he must have been seeing her before he even left you” and “no way would I allow them around Jack!  You have to put a stop to this!”  I don’t see how any of these things are helpful, but because I am such a beacon of calm and “high road taking awesomeness” I didn’t let it affect me.  I am finding that many people enjoy drama, and reality television, and want to see me angry because it is entertaining, not because it will accomplish anything.  I was going into this meeting hopeful that she would be a good person and that I wouldn’t have to prevent a relationship with Jack.  Optimism and hope are all that got me through the first few months when Jack was so sick and fragile.  How could that not be the best option here?

She was beautiful.  Dammit!  Ten years younger than me.  Dammit!!  And mature, thoughtful and extremely considerate of the situation and what I have been through in the past two years.  I utilized my corporate recruiting and negotiating skills in the most important discussion of my life and I left feeling good that, for this trip at least, I was comfortable with Jack being in their care.  I asked open ended questions; What do you know of our situation?  What is your understanding of Jack’s condition?  What experience do you have with children?  Are you willing to take CPR and first aid classes?  Are you clear on the early warning signs of heart failure?  What are your plans with LK?  Do you understand LK’s obligations, financially and personally, to Jack?  Are you okay with those?

She wasn’t clear on the early warning signs of heart failure, but was very interested to learn them and said she wanted to be taught as much as I thought was necessary to care for Jack.  She did know many of the signs of distress and knew an alarmingly large amount of the truth regarding how LK had left and how he had abandoned Jack in the beginning.  I was pleased to find that he hadn’t sugar coated (lied) the story.

They stayed for nearly two hours, and the three of us talked, but I also sent LK out so that she and I could talk alone.  Without divulging them here, I learned many, many things that gave me the information that I needed to feel okay about the situation.  She even said that the trip was for LK and Jack and that if I wasn’t on board, she was planning to fly home tomorrow.  Very admirable.  I don’t think that anyone every truly feels “okay” about meeting their husbands girlfriend, but again, I am approaching this as meeting a new team member on the “Love and Care for Jack” team.

So, in the end, I got a good first impression and told them that I thought it would be okay for them to travel with Jack this weekend.  But I made it clear that this would be an ongoing conversation and that if at any time my feelings changed, I would let them know and unless I was again satisfied that Jack’s best interests were at the forefront, that this arrangement would be halted. 

I am feeling pretty good about myself.  I am forgiving, though it will take a very long time to forget, and I know that letting go of the anger is better for my heart, and certainly my soul.  What do you know, I found some of that “soul spackle” that I was looking for last week.

I will spend tomorrow planning my weekend of luxury and relaxation.  And I will be sure to schedule a few calls to Baby J.   Which she suggested and encouraged.  She even texted her number to me after they left just in case I have trouble reaching LK’s phone.  I think I like her more than LK.

Breathing deeply and keeping calm,

Maggie

Happy Mothers Day…

When a woman becomes a mother, she must immediately begin to make decisions that, though they may hurt her child, are for the best.  I had to do more than most in the way of injuring my child, for the greater good.  I had to approve heart catheterizations, open heart surgery, sticks, pokes, tests and exams.  The list is so long that I become depressed just thinking about it.  But for the most part, had I refused to do any of those things, my son would not have been doing so well, and may not even have survived.

Most mothers have the childs father, her husband, by her side to help with the decision making, or to at least hold her while she cries over it.  I didn’t.  In fact, when Jack’s father visited him following his open heart surgery he put down his laptop long enough to say “I don’t feel that love you’re supposed to feel for a child.”  I have harbored that pain for Jack since then, and while at the beginning, I felt that his father not being involved would be the most hurtful thing to him, I came to accept it and even look forward to a wonderful life despite it.  But as the saying goes, “be careful what you wish for,” because since the beginning of the year, his father has made his desire to be involved with Jack known and has requested overnight visitation.  We aren’t to that level yet, but he is practicing caring for Jack when he isn’t travelling, and his travel schedule brought him to the house yesterday.  Mother’s Day.  My day.

But as in the beginning, when I had to make decisions that hurt Jack in order to help him, this time I had to make a decision that hurt me, in order to help him.  I live in fear that his father will become involved in his life, and then at some point down the road, he will just decide that he’s had enough, and walk away, as he did two years ago.  And yet, I must let him be involved because it’s for the best.  At least that’s what people keep telling me.  But Jack’s not a typical child, so I am making sure that his father knows not only how to change a diaper and prepare his meals, but also how to recognize when quick breathing is tachypnia, and not just excitement.  When blue lips are cold, and when they are circulatory or oxygenation problems.  And of course, he is exasperated and frustrated at me for not just letting him take “his” son with him.  

Last weekend, I insisted that he attend a conference at Egleston including a panel discussion with CHD survivors, which included a 26-year-old with Jack’s diagnosis who had had two valve replacements already in his young life.   Jack’s father actually had no idea that Jack wasn’t done with surgeries and believed that he was healthy and normal.  How can that be?!?  Everyone I know understands that Jack will have surgeries for the rest of his life and needs special care to ensure that he isn’t put at risk for infections or sickeness.  But this guy didn’t know that, and because he donated sperm, the state of Georgia believes that he deserves unsupervised visitation with Jack unless or until he’s in imminent danger.  But that doesn’t really work with my personality, so we will do this my way.  He will do the hard work and learn how to care for Jack, or I will protect Jack from him, at any cost.

And maybe someday it will hurt Jack to know that I kept them apart a little in the beginning, or maybe he’ll be happy to be alive because I made sure that he would be well taken care of before I sent him out into the world with a man who has been a stranger up to now.  It is a daily struggle to do what is right by Jack, especially since I feel that since I was there to make the hard decisions and slept in the hospital those first two months, that I am the only one who deserves unfettered access to Jack.  Someone told me that no one can “own” someone else.  I corrected her and told her that I did own Jack, and he me.  We are a pair and I would do anything to protect and make him happy.  And she suggested that in the future, though it may break my heart now, knowing his father may make him happy.  And I am reluctantly coming to accept that.

So here I sit heartbroken and angry that my son was not with me on Mother’s Day, and I’m reminded of an ancient native american story:  A grandparent is telling her grandchild that there are two wolves living in her heart.  One is loving and kind, the other vicious and hateful.  The wolves are at war, and only one will survive.  The child asks which one will win the war and live, and the grandparent replies, The one which I feed. 

Although I want to protect Jack from the abandonment and rejection that I felt, and still feel so fresh, I have to remind myself that he doesn’t remember that he, too was abandoned and rejected at one time.  He still has a fresh heart and the loving wolf is being fed within his.  Because I’m a mother, I have to do things that hurt him so that he’ll be healthy.  But for that same reason, I also have to do things that hurt me.  And because I love him so much, so deeply, so completely, I will do this for him.  And if he is hurt in the future, I will teach him again to feed the loving wolf.  As hard as it is to do, Lord how it is hard, it’s the only way to ensure a healthy future, because if the vicious wolf wins, surely he will kill the whole body from within.

God Bless the Mothers,

Maggie

Well, I hope this works….

I have read a lot of self-help books lately.  I mean a lot.  So many that I could stock the entire self-help section at Barnes & Noble.  If they hadn’t been run out of business in my town by the economy and e-readers.  And why have I read so many books of this variety lately?  Well, I have had a run of bad luck in the past two years that the writers of Greek Tragedies would have literally vibrated with excitement to have conceived of and written about.

Two years ago, I quit my job as a successful sales rep to pursue my dreams of “finding my bliss.”  I was good at sales, but couldn’t find happiness with the day-to-day responsibilities, and so, with the support of my husband, decided to take some time to look at other options.  I was considering lots of jobs and trying them out with no real pressure to settle on one.  Several months later, he came to me and said that we should begin “trying.”  I had been talking about my ticking biological clock for a while, and he had been a little slower to come around.  But this news made me think he had truly reflected and changed his heart, and I felt that things were slowly falling into place.  I was happier, more relaxed, and things seemed good.

Unfortunately, four months after we began “trying,” my husband sat me down to tell me that he didn’t want children, didn’t love me anymore and wanted a divorce, among other, even more hurtful things.  I felt the immediate impact, as if I had been kicked, square in the teeth.  I asked why, pleaded for more discussion, cried and begged.  But in the end, his cold refusals to even discuss it shattered me, and I got in my car and left.  I didn’t know where to go, so I did the only thing I knew to do.  I called my sister, and as all family should do, she said “come here right now.”  And so I drove to family, and still didn’t believe that I was going to be a divorcee.

But I was going to be a divorcee.  And two days after my husband wrecked my whole world, I found out that I was pregnant.  Our efforts, dubious on his part though they were, had been successful, and I was now faced with the threat of being a single mother.  After all, he had made it clear that we wanted different things, and for him, that meant, painfully, that he didn’t want children.   When I told him of the joyful news, his reaction was not exactly the stuff of dreams.  He was stunned, but not so stunned that he couldn’t cuss and question and generally act the part of the douchebag that he was showing himself to be.  He left, leaving a note saying that he “needed a little time to think about this,” and that he’d be in touch in “a few weeks.”   Yep, a real prince charming.

From that point on, I had begun to recover a bit, or at least bury the pain of my failed marriage, so that I could focus on growing this miracle child within me.  But on the day that I was to visit the OBGYN for the gender scan, a spot was found on the baby’s heart.  The doctor assured me that it could be nothing, that her own children had shown the spots and been born healthy, that I shouldn’t worry until I saw a specialist.  So, I tried not to worry, but three weeks later, in the office of a perinatologist, my son was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect.  I was warned that the implications could include everything from a normal birth and a minor surgery, all the way to heart transplant or even death in-utero.  I was dizzy with the gravity of what I was hearing, and in the place where my husband should have been, was my mother.  Tiny and silent, with her hand steadfast and firm on my own, she was keeping me from crumbling.

The exact CHD wasn’t diagnosed for a few more weeks, but from that point on, I became convinced that God had forsaken me, and my son.  We had been abandoned by the man who had vowed to love me forever, and were now in danger of never even meeting. 

This blog will reflect on the happenings in our life, from his birth a year ago this week, ten weeks premature, to his second birthday, a year from now.  I will describe his struggle from the tiny, fragile start, and then I will discuss how I am making each week in the present a step toward regaining our footing and finding happiness.  Actually, I will chronicle how I find happiness.  My son is the happiest, most loving boy you will ever meet.  He bears no visible scars, and it would seem, no emotional scars from the pain and terror of his beginning-to-life. 

I am not so lucky.  I am still grieving the loss of my marriage, because I wasn’t able to do so in the moment.  I was always focused on growing, and then caring for my special baby.  This year, I will complete projects, experience joys and challenge beliefs that are holding me back, in an effort to find the bliss that I couldn’t find in a job.  And I hope that you’ll join me and, hopefully, find more happiness in your own life.  I look forward to the journey.

Timidly yours,

Maggie