A Measure of Success…

I do not fail.  Failure is for the weak and the stupid, and I am neither.  If I fail at something, it is because I didn’t try hard enough, or I gave up too soon.  No, failure is not an option.  Of course, I’ve had set backs in my life, but I kept at it until my goal was achieved, even if I had long ago decided the goal was no longer appealing to me.  It’s the principle of the thing.  So, where exactly does the fact that I have been part of a failed marriage fit into my life plan?  If I get a divorce, it’s official.  I failed at marriage and didn’t plan well enough, didn’t try hard enough, wasn’t good enough…

This is where I have been for the past three weeks.  Trying to reconcile in my mind the fact that I had failed, and yet I had no opportunity to fix it.  I don’t want to be a failure.  I know that he left me and there was nothing I could have done to make him face the issues and stay.  What did I do wrong?  How could I have prevented it?  Why didn’t I make him talk to me about it?  Who knows.  But once someone abandons you in such a cruel way, it’s hard to see yourself as worthy, attractive or desirable.  I never questioned my intellect or value to Jack, but for some reason the physical and emotional shortcomings continue to plague me. 

So to “challenge this belief” and move forward, I wondered if I hadn’t retained a lawyer because I hoped he’d return to me.  No, that’s not it.  Moving forward, I won’t date any man who abandoned his child, I sure as hell won’t date the man who abandoned mine.  Did I still love him?  No, that’s not it.  Many disgusting things had ensured that love would never again be an option.  It was because if I visited a lawyer it would happen.  The divorce.  The legal, public, official and damning confirmation of my failure.  So as my Project 3, I did retain a lawyer.  An awesome, capable, bitch-on-wheels (in case we go to court) lawyer who assured me that of all the cases she’s heard, this one for sure indicated that I was not the failure in the marriage.  So I gave her a big check and we have been working on the details since then.

Project 4 was initiating the negotiations, which meant that I would actually have to talk to “him” and hammer out the checklist of items from the lawyer.  The negotiations with my soon-to-be-ex are going well.  One thing I do not fail at is managing money and caring for Jack.  Doing this out of court will ensure that Jack will receive the most money, and not the lawyers.  And certainly more importantly, he will receive the gift of two parents who are able to talk calmly to one another and behave civilly together where he is invovled.  As you might imagine, inside I am raging with anger and contempt for the asshole who is now interested in Jack, even though he couldn’t be bothered while his chest was open and his heart stopped beating.  But on the outside, I am a calm, cool customer.  I’m impressed with my restraint, quite frankly.  But that anger will fade, I’m sure, as those awful memories are replaced by newer, better memories of him actually showing up for Jack in the future.  At least, I really hope that happens.

In order to address some of my physical self-consciousness, Project 5 involved returning to a regular exercise regime.  In the past, I did Tae Kwon Do, and since the “goal” is black belt, I achieved that.  But now I’m doing a Zumba class, and Yoga, and they are both allowing me to explore a more feminine side of myself, while still working out my aggressions.  Is it as effective at getting the anger out as kicking the crap out of someone who is trying to do the same to me?  Hell, no.  But am I enjoying it and learning how to be graceful and shake my hips a little?  Surprisingly, yes.  One day last week, a man at the gym approached me and started in with the small talk.  I froze up and made what I’m sure were several barely coherent attempts at returning dialog.  I am WAAAY out of practice, but hey, I got approached, so that’s a good sign for the future!

So that’s where I’ve been.  Challenging beliefs about failure, and self-worth and taking charge of my future by finally moving forward on the divorce.  I become physically ill thinking about my coming status as a “divorcee” and all that that word conjures, but I do now realize that the “goal” had long ago become unappealing.  I deserve a marriage with two interested and participating partners, and I really don’t want to spend the rest of my life in one that is anything less.  So I am moving forward, and with any luck (oh how it pains me to seem blase about it, I’m really not) I’ll be single before Fall.  At which time, all the single, musical, artistic, handy, outdoorsy, sophisticated, physically active, financially stable, emotionally mature, family oriented, considerate, willing to take dance lessons, animal lover, Baby Jack fan, interesting, funny, independent but loving men better look out!  Maybe one of my coming projects should be “lowering my expectations”?  I’ll keep you posted…

Empowered and hopefully yours,

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