Where does the time go?

I had no idea it had been nearly four months since my last post.  Life goes by so quickly and while I know that I have done a lot since that last post, I am amazed at how much is left to be done.  And isn’t that a wonderful way to live?  To wake up every morning with a list of things to accomplish?  Oh the accomplishments in the past four months…..

By the end of January, my divorce from LK was final, and while we still have occasional issues, we have settled into a comfortable, Jack-focused, civility that I am at peace with.  I have forgiven him for so much, but still feel I need to protect Jack from him.  Which I don’t.  He is trying his best and I am glad for it.  Jack needs his father in his life and I am in love with Jack, so I will make it as easy as possible.

Jack turned two this month and that was such an amazing day!  I remember, vividly, being told that he had a serious heart defect, and that he may not even survive his birth.  The days when I only ate or got of bed because I had a son to live for and take care of are painful reminders of my past.   But to see him now, I am just amazed and blessed.  All the fighting and crying, all the nights I slept at the hospital, or not at all…  They were all worth it.  He is an amazing beacon of light and source of happiness and I love him more every single day.

I finished a lot of soul searching, looking for my passion and started a new business.  I am now a “Social Media Consultant.”  I had no idea that this was what I would be doing, but by following every opportunity that came my way in the past few months, it literally fell into my lap.  I have a wonderful mentor and a few great clients and, for now at least, I can support Jack without leaving him for 10 hours a day, and it feels wonderful.  It has been a very stressful time, becoming self employed, but the blessings continue to come my way, so I am thankful and continue to welcome them.

Another big change in my life has been that I have begun dating again.  I felt that it was important to wait until the divorce was final to start dating again, and in so doing, I was single (but not yet ready to mingle) for nearly three years.  I really didn’t want to enter a relationship until I was healed anyway.  What hope of success can a relationship have if I wasn’t able to trust anyone?  But now I think I can. Or, at least I think that I can choose better.  We’ll see how that goes.

I have been on a few dates so far and I can tell you this:  Dating at 36 (with a child) is a whole different ballgame than dating as a 20-something single woman.  The stakes are so much higher, and my patience for games is practically non-existent.  Does that mean that a relationship “just for fun” is out of the picture?  No.  I am not looking to get married and have kids by the end of the year, that is for sure. Sometimes, just having someone to go to dinner with is a welcome change from the dinner at home monotony of single life.  But I have very particular criteria for the kind of man that won’t fit into my life, and I won’t change myself to fit his mold of what kind of woman I should be.  And isn’t that better?

The trick now will be to find a man strong enough to handle me.  I have been told many times that I am the strongest woman a person has ever known.  But even the strongest woman wants to be taken care of sometimes.  It’s not reasonable to be the strong one all the time. It’s exhausting, and scary, and lonely.  So hopefully, somewhere there is a man being prepared to be my partner.  Lucky him. 😉

I may share a few of the more interesting stories of my dating experiences in the near future.  I am keeping a journal, as usual, so all the ridiculous, charming, wonderful and awful things that I see are safe and recorded.  But for right now, I am going to keep them to myself.  I have only been “out there” for about a month and I think I need to reflect a bit before sharing.  What I can say is that it is fun and frustrating and exciting and terrifying, all at the same time.

I kind of feel like a kid again.  One with a mortgage and a 401(k), but still…

Hopefully,
Maggie

A New Year Deserves a New Post

Well, Happy New Year!!!  I haven’t written in almost five months, and I’m sorry.  I hope that some of you are still out there!

I wanted, so many times, to write a blog post about what was happening in our lives, but kept worrying that I was exposing too much, or putting our future at risk.  For example, if I were to write about all of the things that were going on in the divorce negotiations, would I anger LK, resulting in a court battle and losing assets that Jack would need.  Many of the things that happened were so ridiculous, that I jotted them down in case I’m ever asked to write a movie about how stupidly people behave during divorces.  So I sat back and kept my story to myself for a while.  And now, the settlement has been made, the papers signed and filed, and we will be divorced by the end of the month.  There was a lot of give and take, and in the end, as much as can be said, Jack won.  He gets all the time and assets both of his parents can afford, and a great shot at a cooperative co-parenting experience.

Overall, we have had a good five months.  Jack did suffer a febrile seizure which was terrifying and required a 911 call and an ER visit, but everything resolved well and he has had no repeat episodes.  He has been an absolute star at school (my words, not the teachers) and loves to get ready for “skuul” every morning to go see his friends.  Jack did bite another child, and when I was told at pick up, I was horrified, but sure that he had been framed.  Unfortunately, the teacher told me he was still clamped down on the other childs arm as she tried to separate them.  So, I’m sure Jack was provoked somehow, but we have been working on the “catch and release” technique anyway.  Since that day, he has had no “aggressive acts” at school, thank goodness!  He brings home lots of beautiful art work that I hang all over the house in “mini art galleries” that Jack seems really proud of.  He’s very talented!

As far as I am concerned, things are going very well.  I have a cordial relationship with LK and his girlfriend, although they both piss me off.  LK for obvious reasons, and Her for being so stupid.  I say that in the grand scheme of “don’t get involved with a married man who has abandoned his child, that you have to talk into having a relationship with his son, and think that he is actually the one who was meant for you, because he is actually a selfish egomaniac who will not change his character and marry and impregnate you in 5 years.”  But she’ll have to be my age to realize that, I guess.  Or maybe he will change and she will “fix” him, which would be best for Jack.  Either way, I don’t care.  LK is her problem now and I am in a surprisingly wonderful place.  However, I think that if all women on Earth would unite and agree not to “be with” men who are married, or have abandoned their children, there would be far fewer men who cheat or leave their families.  If they didn’t have other outlets, one would presume, they would have to behave like adults and actually work on relationships.  But that is my pipe dream for a better world, full of better people.

I am essentially underemployed right now.  I have no idea what I want to do for a job, and no prospects.  And I’m not really all that worried about it.  This is such new territory for me that had I not been through the massive life changes I have in the past three years, I would be worried that I was losing my mind.  The only reason that I am considering a full-time, “former life” type job with lots of hours and lots of money, is that those kinds of jobs also come with lots of really good health insurance, for Jack.  But I LK is providing the insurance now, and if he loses that insurance, we can use COBRA to buy the same coverage for a while.  And I have money saved for that.  So I  can wait for the perfect opportunity for Jack and I to come along.  And so I am.

At least, I’m trying.  I frequently slip back into my old mindset of “money equals security” and now there is a new one, “single mothers who are able to support their children well, should.”  But to provide Jack with more financial advantage than emotional advantage might result in a man who would value money over family, or his own child.  So I relent and stop berating myself.  And I get on the floor with Jack and read one more book, or pretend to eat the delicious dinner he has “cooked” in the fireplace.  And it is so much more fun and rewarding than any job I’ve ever had, or could ever get.

So that’s a quick catch up on our lives. Except for my newest project:  I am training for a half marathon!  My resolution last January was to run a 5k, and I did it before the weather even warmed up.  While enduring the divorce negotiations I began to create a “Bucket List” of things I want to do before I die.  Running a marathon was on it.  But I am starting with a half marathon, and while I was worried, I have come to love running.  I sleep better at night, I have fewer negative or depressing thoughts and I’m even working on the body that will soon re-enter the dating pool.  Well, not too soon.  More about that in a later post.  For now, the running is awesome, and just for me.  I’m a happier Mama, and that’s my goal right now.  I’ll post about the running progress soon, but in the meantime, I’d recommend a 5k resolution to everyone reading this.  It’s an easy distance, that can be walked, by most people, in under an hour.  Let me know if you try one this year!

New Year, New Me!
Maggie

Hard Times and Sweet Babies

I have been in a funk since LK took Jack last Friday and I’ve been trying to figure out how to escape it without success.  I have tried exercising, which is usually a panacea for me.  I have tried going to bed early and resting, getting up early and being productive, working hard and hardly working.  So far, nothing has eased the pain and depression.  I am not a person who cries easily or frequently, except for when my child is in a cardiac or NICU hospital unit.  And yet, I know that it is a good and healthy thing to do.  So, tonight, I tried to cry.  I can work up a few tears, and cry for a few seconds pretty easily, but those types of cries don’t do alot to lighten a funk, so I had to bring in the big guns.

I watched a story on NBC news tonight that finally brought the cleansing cry that I have been searching for all week.  It was about a woman who had won a prize to throw out the first pitch at a minor league baseball game.  She threw the pitch to the catcher, and as they always do, the catcher began to trot to the mound to return the ball and pose for the picture.  But as he got close to her she gasped and drew her hands to her face.  It was her husband, who had been deployed overseas with the Army.  He had worked for two weeks to set up the surprise return, enlisting the help of their kids and the baseball team.  As the family posed for pictures I sobbed and finally realized why I was hurting so badly.

This was the type of man I had wanted to marry.  A man with the courage and bravery to fight for his country, and the tenderness and heart to love his wife so much that he would orchestrate beautiful and memorable interactions and experiences for her and their children.  As the media snapped photos, he held tightly to his wife and kids and kissed her repeatedly on the top of her head.  He looked as happy to be with them as they did to be with him.  He loved his family so deeply, so fully.  And what did I end up with?  A loser who abandoned me when I was pregnant, then denied his own son for over a year. 

How did I make such a mistake in selecting him?   It’s hard to say, but when we met I was much younger and overlooked quite a few things that I wouldn’t today.  Early in our marriage, I was bitten by a friends dog and required 22 stitches in my lip.  He still left for a business trip the next day.  I suffered broken bones, the flu, bronchitis and other ailments alone, while he continued with his work and travels.  And I never told him how hurt that made me.  I knew several years ago that I wasn’t happy and never did anything.  I don’t think I would have ever left just because I was unhappy.  I am the child of divorce and wanted so badly not to be divorced myself that I would have stayed for the rest of my life.

And so I cried, for the man I married, and the man I had wanted to marry.  I cried for the life I have and the life I had wanted and was now mourning.  And I cried for the me that I denied for so many years, sentencing myself to a marriage in which I was unloved and uncherished.  I cried with pain that this man who had ignored and hurt me so deeply was now going to be in my son’s life.  And I regretted marrying him.  And then the most amazing thing happend. 

Jack, who had been playing and drinking from his sippy cup walked over to me and put his hand on my shoulder.  I looked at him and his concerned, furrowed brow relaxed into a goofy smile and he patted my shoulder several times.  He was trying to comfort me.  And that made me cry harder.  So he put his sippy cup down and stradled my legs, crawling into my lap.  He put a hand on each shoulder and looked at me with a concern so deep that it broke my heart, and then a smile so big I laughed out loud.  I gathered him into me in a big hug and he let me. 

And then I was done.  The pain was gone and the joy was back.  I had a mini-breakthrough and Jack showed me something.  I had never been able to say that I was grateful for the bad marriage and all the pain, just because I had this wonderful child as a result.  So many people had said this to me and I had considered their words trite and naive.  I am an analytical person and reasoned that if I could have avoided the bad husband and marriage, then I wouldn’t know about the child that didn’t result, and may even be living in an intact marriage with a loving husband and our half dozen loving, beautiful and smart children.  But tonight, I got it.  Jack is my son, the one God designed for me.  And if I had never had him, I might not have lived the life that God meant for me. 

And I would have missed out mightily. 

Maggie

Visitation and Mama’s Time Off

Last week, I wrote about the big change in our lives; LK’s girlfriend, and their plans to take Baby Jack to another state to visit his family.  On Friday, as I drove Jack to the meeting point, I listened to sad music, trying to elicit some sort of cathartic crying so that I would be able to handle the meeting without crying in front of anyone.  And as I took the exit and prepared to turn left towards the assigned parking lot, I instead turned right as the tears finally came.  I sobbed and drove around Buckhead, trying to keep my old Jeep in my lane and not hit any of the expensive foreign cars that surrounded me, and actually considered driving home and keeping my baby to myself.

But, I finally did go to the drop off point, and when LK got out of his truck, which she was driving, he was on a conference call with work.  As his wife, I was never able to get him to leave a conference call and listen to me.  As the mother of the child that he wanted to show off to his family, he took the earphones out quickly and listened intently.  I enjoyed this change quite a bit.  While there, I taught them how to monitor Jack’s heart and what to listen for and reminded them to keep him hydrated and away from certain foods.  As they drove away, I was thankful that I had scheduled a full weekend of distractions, and prayed that LK would be able to leave his work behind enough to keep Jack safe.

During their time together Jack had three diaper blow outs, one in the car and two at 2 o’clock in the morning (YES!).  He also woke screaming during the night and kept LK up for a couple of hours (YES!).  I say “YES!” to these things, because they didn’t cause Jack any real distress and LK got to see a snippet of the months of sleepless nights and poop festivals that I have had to handle on my own.  Plus, it’s hilarious.

Jack also turned blue this weekend.  I had warned LK that too much sodium or too little fluids could cause this, and that unless it was paired with other symptoms that indicated heart failure, he just needed some quiet time and water to improve hydration and blood flow.  I knew that LK thought I was exaggerating when I warned him about this, so I was glad that it happened.  It’s far more terrifying to be in the presence of a cyanotic child than you might imagine, and LK again got a taste of what my normal has been.

So, back to the “Me time” portion of the weekend!  First on my agenda was lunch with two friends that I used to work with, D and C.  We had a delicious lunch and laughed so much my stomach hurt and I realized that the dinner plans I had would find me alone and sad, so I invited Deb to join me and she agreed!  From there, I headed to the Ritz Carlton which is beautiful, and quite expensive.  Now, if you’re concerned that I am being reckless with my money as a single mother, recognize that if I paid myself a mere $4 per week that I gestated and cared for Jack alone, I saved enough to pay for this weekend.  And if you know me, you know that I had this cash in savings for just this type of occasion.  At the Ritz, I enjoyed several spa treatements, delicious food and drinks, and after dinner, D and I even got hit on by a couple of way too young, way too drunk men. 

On Saturday afternoon, I headed home and found myself in a dark, quiet house.  I immediately started scrambling, doing the math in my head of what needed to be done, prioritizing those things and estimating how many of them I could complete before Jack was returned to me.  Then I remembered that it was only Saturday and I wouldn’t be getting Jack back til Sunday evening.  So I took a nap on the couch.  During a thunder storm.   And it was glorious.  When I woke up, I went to dinner with a friend then came home and went to bed early.  Sunday found me at Church and then a day of chores with Daddy and Donna.

That Sunday afternoon, I began to feel that familiar cluster of unidentifiable, but uncomfortable emotions in the pit of my stomach.  I know that not having Jack around is hard, but will get easier.  I know that I have been the sole caregiver for two years, and I deserve a break.  And I know that I am still a good mother if I take time for myself.  But the sadness and anger and guilt still came, so I called my sister.  She is, to me, like an Oracle in Ancient Greece.  There is no problem that I have that she can’t distill into a few succinct words that remove all the pretense and mystery.  When I described my feelings, she said “well, you miss your baby, so you hate the people who have him.”  Of course.  I miss Jack and I’m jealous of them for having them, and angry that after all the hard work was done keeping him alive, LK swooped in to have fun with him “every other weekend.”  That girl is a genius.

Jack was returned to me so exhausted that he just wanted to go to bed.  He didn’t play with me, didn’t talk much and didn’t reach for me.  It broke my heart and I was certain that he had forgotten about me during his time away.  Our bond was broken and would never be remade.  So I went to bed devastated and hoped that I hadn’t made a mistake.  Of course, on Monday morning, Jack was rested and loved me like his own personal rock star again.  But I have been in a funk for days.   

I know that each time LK has Jack, it’ll get easier for me to be alone, and I may even begin to enjoy my time alone.  But for now, it is heart breaking and lonely and sad.  But just for me.  I have raised a son so happy and secure that he is relatively happy in all situations.  And I guess I should be proud of that.

Maybe I’ll relax more next time,

Maggie

 

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

Sappy, Life-Affirming Metaphors Ahead…

I did not get the closet build out finished last week and I am totally okay with that.  Because what I did get done is prepare the closet for it’s new role as my favorite closet in the house.  Below is the before photo of the closet with the single, builder grade wire shelf.  The closet is not living up to its potential at all…

Now, brace yourself for the aforementioned sappy, life-affirming metaphor.  I don’t know if it was the fatigue, or the paint fumes, but I began to really identify with this closet during the past week.  Like the closet, I haven’t been living up to my potential in quite a while.  But only as a woman, and person.  As a mother and protector of Jack, I am an unmatched and rousing success.  As Maggie, I have left a few things untended.

As I removed the wire shelf, the anchors and screws that had supported it clung to the wall like a dog to a bone, and like I have been to my past.  Once finally and violently removed, the holes left in the drywall were gaping and dramatic.  I couldn’t believe the size and design of the anchors.  How could this much engineering be required for a lone wire shelf?  But the ugly shelf was expected to hold perhaps a hundred pounds of clothes and the drywall foundation would never be strong enough. 

Anyway, I guess my marriage was like the anchors and screws.  Over engineered to hold up an ugly and dysfunctional relationship that, no matter how many beautiful clothes, or trips, jewelry or other “things” were hung on it, would never be pretty, and certainly never strong enough to support us.  It, we, looked great on paper.  Everyone said so.  I thought so.  But in practice, the design was flawed and the life we built fell apart.  So, moving forward, I patched and sanded the voids left in the wall and painted them a lovely shade of creamy off-white.

Isn’t it a beautiful clean slate?  I am still looking for the spackle and sand paper and paint that will transform my soul into a clean slate, but in the meantime, I find that hard work and sweat are a great help. 

Below, I have included a photo of the lower half of the tower that will be in the center of the closet, to give you some perspective.  It is about two feet wide and the closet is about seven or eight feet wide.  The bedroom is kind of small, so I am going to install drawers in the tower so that a dresser isn’t necessary in the room.

The next step involves a level, a drill and a saw, and although I am quite comfortable with a firearm, these tools scare me.  So I am waiting on help to arrive this weekend.  If all goes well, the closet will be finished by this time next week and I will have a wonderfully fresh, clean new place to look at and be inspired by moving forward.

We can all thank HGTV and the DIY network for the metaphors and disproportionate importance placed on home improvement this week.

Happy home improving!
Maggie

 

Harder than it looks…

It turns out that going a whole week without watching television is much harder than one very disciplined blogger might have imagined.  As you may remember, I was planning to turn the tv off last week and see how much more I got done.  And on Monday I was like a woman possessed, getting things done like my life depended on it.  Tuesday was much the same, but by Wednesday, the bloom was off the rose and I caught a few Sex and the City episodes while Jack napped.  Thursday wasn’t much better and Friday would have been a complete failure if I hadn’t scheduled a day of appointments and a trip to my hometown. 

So, where to go from here?  In the past, I might have just concluded that watching tv is what I want to do (refusing to admit my “failure”), so I’m going to do it.  But it’s not.  I did get a lot done last week and I felt better watching less of the “idiot box.”  I was able to get out and see people and do more.  So this week I am going to continue my efforts towards no tv, and just shoot for less tv.  I have pretty well cut morning tv out, giving me an extra hour to play with Jack, or eat breakfast, or start laundry.  But the evenings are still very difficult.  I am lonely after Jack goes to bed and so I turn to the comfort of the friends I’ve made on the sitcoms I love so much.  I am going to look for a book to read this week and substitute that for the tv family I’ve made.

This week will also be a big test of my self control.  Tomorrow Jack has an appointment with his pediatrician and his father is “scheduled to appear.”  I shouldn’t say it like that, I’m sure he’ll be there.  He’s actually been trying very hard with Jack lately and this weekend, he kept Jack at his apartment.  I dropped him off so that I could check things out and was, quite honestly, stunned at the home he had created within the walls of his bachelor pad.  He had a beautiful crib with sweet blue sailboat themed bedding.  He had tiny clothes for Jack to wear and toys and food that were all age and stage appropriate.  And he had photos of Jack on the refrigerator and on the wall.  In frames.   And while it took my breath away to see pictures of my son on the walls of a person who has essentially become a stranger to me, I had to admit that he was making an honest effort. 

At least I hope it’s an honest effort.  I remember the day I told him I was pregnant and the following six months, during which he wanted nothing to do with the baby.  And I remember the eight months after Jack was born when his father continued his devotion to his job, and yet failed to attend even a single doctors appointment.  I even asked him at one point to take a CPR class so that he could come keep Jack while I slept during the exhausting first months home when I was waking every three hours to pump milk, and feed and medicate Jack.  I remember that he said “no” and that he just didn’t think he could be involved. 

It’s hard to trust this man and I don’t yet believe that his commitment to Jack is real, or will continue.  Especially if Jack gets sick again, which he almost certainly will.  He will need another heart surgery before adulthood, it’s not a maybe.  And will his father show up and help me change the bandages and give the medication and monitor the heart rate?  I don’t know.  I hope so.  But I know, for sure, that I don’t want to be the reason that he isn’t.  I waste a lot of time worrying about tomorrow, but the thing I worry the most about is having to tell Jack, someday, that his father isn’t coming to see him as planned.  But if that is because told him that he couldn’t come and I wanted to protect him, then I will be the real cause of his pain, and I don’t want to be the reason for any further pain in Jack’s life.  He’s had enough for a lifetime. 

For now, I am making every effort to allow Jack and his father visitation each time it is requested.  And while we are apart I fret and worry about how Jack is doing and whether this will continue, and whether I should have that margarita because what it I’m called on to go retrieve Jack because his father changed his mind.  And then I stop.  And I have the margarita.  And I try to enjoy my alone time, because his father has had almost two years of “him time” and now it’s my turn. 

Being a good mother is harder than it looks.  So much harder…

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

Project 2: House Guests

Next week, I will have some house guests moving in.  In the past, I would never have invited people to move in with me.  I am uptight and I like things in a certain place, and if I see a mess, I know that I made it, so there’s no one to be mad at.  But next week my friend, “M.A.” and her son are moving in.  M.A.’s husband left her the same week that mine left me, and we grieved together and supported each other.  And through a series of circumstances, she and her son find themselves in need of temporary housing.  And as luck would have it, I have a little bit of extra space.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m scared about this.  Will I be able to live with a friend?  and her son?!?!  But her son is so sweet, and he’s very sweet to Jack.  And M.A. is as clean and concientious as I am.  I think that we will be able to talk things out and establish boundaries and be pretty successful.  At least I hope so.  I anticipate that we will help each other out with child care and cooking, and still have fun hanging out and enjoying a movie, or a glass of wine once in a while.

So as for my project, I have to get the two bedrooms that they will be using in order.  Since I’ve been using the closets for storage, that means lots of clearing out and getting rid of clutter.  I used to hold on to everything, but the changes in my life have changed me.  I no longer want things, I want experiences, and relationships.  And I need to clear out these things in order to have the relationship with M.A. and her son that I want.

Below is the guest room that her son will use.  I currently use this as a “laundry annex” where I lay the dry clothes until I fold them and put them away.  I sometimes take a while…

And here is the closet he will use.  It is currently full of baby stuff, old arts and crafts projects, and over 100 Barbie dolls.  Yes, that is a problem.  I am seeing someone about that little addiction.  I did give away about 100 last Christmas.  That was a start, right?!?

And here is the office, which I have used as a dumping ground.  This will take the most work.  Where am I going to put all that stuff?!?!  First is the office as you walk in the door…

And this is the other side of the room, where the bed will go…

Here is the closet she will use.  It is outfitted as a supply closet from my home office salesrep days.  I need to make it more clothing closet appropriate. 

So there it is.  Another big project.  I don’t know that I’ll get it all done in one week, but my first priority is her sons room.  He’s had enough upheaval in his life lately, and I want him to feel safe and welcome when he gets here.  These people are not boarders in my home.  They are my friends, living with me, in my home.  And I want them to feel as welcome as I’d hope someone would make me feel if I needed a little help. 

I think this may help me as much as it helps them.  I want to be less strict about my environment.  I don’t want Jack to be saddled with the restrictions that I’ve put on myself regarding boundaries and quiet.  I’m comfortable being alone.  I read and do projects (obviously) but who likes being lonely?  I don’t, and this way, I’ll have some company.  And the house is big enough that when any of us wants privacy, we can have it.  I think it’ll be good…

Hoping for the best!
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