Monday, May 28, 2012

God Bless The USA

I had only been back in the states a week when I was invited to the Alumni Board's annual meeting at a world renown tennis club in the Texas Hill Country. I was handing off my post as student liaison to my roommate and new President of the student organization we were both members of. Many of the board members were interested in my summer trip to Nigeria. One person was not part of the Alumni board, but rather the wealthy second husband of the VP for student affairs. He was everything stereotypical you see about oil money and Texas--the white suits to match his white hair, the snake skin boots so pointy the only real purpose they served was to kill cockroaches in a corner, and bling. So much bling.

The first evening he sat by the pool sipping his JD on the rocks and called me over. I can still remember how gaudy his pinky ring looked on his overly tanned hand.

"So, Reese....I hear you were in Africa," he said.
"Yes sir. Doing a research project," I said.
"Bet you learned a lot when you were over there," he said.

I had learned a lot, too much, I thought-- about the frailty of the world, the amazing human spirit, how young people half a globe away really thought and worried about similar things...

"I did," I said.
"Tell me....did you learn the most important thing?" he asked.
"What's that sir?"
"That America is the best goddamn country in the world?"

When he said that, everyone laughed and cheered and I smiled politely. It wasn't that I didn't agree with him, but knew I was too young to make that call blindly (22). I had seen how a country like Nigeria treated their people. There was an oil shortage that summer, which was ridiculous considering that they were the 4th largest exporters of oil. I thought that we were better, but what I have learned in the 15 years since that trip is that America is not perfect. We have our flaws. We could do certain things better and more efficient. We could stop being so divided. We could pull or troops from Afghanistan and let them find their own way out of the Taliban insanity. We could, we could, we could....

But, I'm allowed to write this on a blog. I'm allowed to vote. I'm allowed to worship how I please, I was allowed to climb up from lower middle class through hard work and determination. I'm allowed to run a Division in the military even though I am a woman, and a civilian. I am allowed to be heard. And my daughter will be allowed to be heard. And God willing it will get better through the generations.

And for that promise, and for that hope, I do believe that statement that was uttered to me poolside 15 years ago.

Happy Memorial Day!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Fertility Gods

In 2004, the year before Hurricane Katrina hit, I attended a conference in New Orleans. I roomed in a dive hotel near Bourbon St. with my friend Becky. We toured the square that first day, admiring all the local artist's work, and on our way back to the hotel a palm reader asked if I wanted my fortune told. He was a boisterous type, with a mane of salt and pepper hair, and a belly that revealed he liked his beer. He had a huge southern accent. He called me Darlin'. I negotiated the price down to $10. He agreed and grabbed my hand.

"You're pregnant!!!" he exclaimed.
Becky just looked bug-eyed at me.
"Ummm, nope," I said.
He stared again.
"Are you sure?"
"Pretty damn sure," I said. I was still not done with my PhD, and a baby was not on the radar.
"Ever been told you couldn't have children?" he asked. He focused really hard on the lines of my palm, trying to figure out what else it (whatever it was) could be.
"No," I said, "but they have mentioned it may be difficult when I try."

The OB/GYNs I had seen always warned me that I may not ovulate normally due to suspected, but never diagnosed PCOS.

"Hmmmm," he said. He reached for a stick man covered in cloth.
"Put your hands on him. He's the fertility god. He will help you have your children," he said.

Becky rolled her eyes and busied herself with her cell phone, but I touched the god, thinking it wouldn't hurt, especially after all the forewarning that I had been getting lately at the annual check-ups.

I don't know if it worked, but I have never really had a problem getting pregnant. Off the pill, and bam, we were pregnant with Ronan. In between the final scientific report of his demise and Mother's Day, in a grief-stricken moment where we were not sure what was up or down, BAM, pregnant with the girl. Valentine's Day when I accidentally miscalculated my ovulation week, BAM, pregnant with the wee boy.

Typing this seems unfair, because I know so many women now who are struggling with infertility. And in these matters, I can offer really nothing except general love and support, and share with them the tale of mentally preparing yourself to do what it takes to get a baby. In this matter, and this matter alone, I can relate just a smidgeon. When Ronan died I had to have a hard talk with myself about what I would do to get a living child---how many more times would I try...how many more children could I lose without losing my goddamn mind? Would I try IVF and spend the $$$$$? Would we adopt?

Pregnancy is not a happy time for me. It is a stressful 40 weeks filled with angst, depression, and worry that can compare to nothing else I have ever experienced in my life. I can only imagine the same kind of feelings directed towards the 18th negative pee stick. I never went into a pregnancy confident that I would get a child after Ronan died. I have been fortunate enough to have had two--but even then, I think that I have tricked the fertility gods in some respect, and even though I feel I paid the ultimate sacrifice for my easy first try at pregnancy, I feel that I will always be paying somehow for getting two living children out of the deal...

I am not entirely sure how to be supportive to a woman who is going through infertility. Is just being a supportive ear enough? I know enough from the stupid ass comments I heard when Ronan died to not repeat such drivel---and you will NEVER hear 'just relax and let it happen!' from my lips....but is it wrong to tell a young woman staring at the path in frustration that she should have these hard talks with herself/her husband about the lengths they will try to go to to get a living child? Is it too harsh, considering that I never have experienced it myself? Perhaps I should let them come to that conclusion on their own...

What do you guys think?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Befuddled

I have been out of this Blogger thing for a while, so its been an interesting time consumer when I hit the stats button and am suddenly privy to who is reading what. Some of the traffic I understand, people are starting from the beginning to get a grasp of my history, of what happened to my sweet boy. But there are upwards of 10-20 hits a DAY on a particular entry I made back in Aug of 2008, where I talk about people's perception of miscarriage and how that affected me (still does).

Is this linked from another site? Did someone read it once and bookmark it to read again and again? I haven't the foggiest. But it does make me wonder....

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Out of Office Reply

I send the e-mail twice a year. I don't include much more than a simple "I haven't heard from you in so long, but I just want you to know that I'm thinking of you and hope you are happy and well...." I suspects he reads it, although I tell myself he probably just deletes the posts after almost 3 years. Last time I talked to him/saw him was in November 2009. We were back in Michigan for my grad school reunion. I should've known then it would be the last time I would talk to him. He was awkward around me. Nervous. He held Radha, and a look that I couldn't quite identify came across his face when he held her. Happiness for me? Sorrow for his losses?

He and his wife had one living child. They tried for more, he wrote, but they lost them all, and nearly her the last time she miscarried. He told me this and so much more over an e-mail exchange a few months after Ronan died. He wrote freely. I wrote freely. And then it abruptly stopped, conscious of what he really revealed, perhaps? The pain, the vulnerability? The hopes for a different path? The dream of alternate happiness.

He was forced to see me on that trip. As a former mentor for one of my classmates, he was supposed to be at the luncheon to showcase us and how far we had come in 10 years. The placecards had us sitting by each other. He sat straight up in his chair, like a rocket ready for flight. I handed the girl over as an attempt to break the ice. He softened when he held her. I still remember how he looked at her, and his face as he handed her back. He left soon thereafter. He hugged me and planted an awkward kiss on my cheek. I haven't heard or seen him since.

I may never know why he shut down, but I write in vain in hopes that one day he will respond. I want to tell him his honesty during that email exchange pulled me out of a dark place, and his words were a shelter I desperately needed to protect me from the constant rain of tears and heartache.

I hope even if he never responds that he can read my gratitude in 2 simple lines of text.

I hope. I hope.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

For those who are mothers of children, here or above, I wish you a gentle day....

Friday, May 11, 2012

Reflections in the Sand

I sat on the white sand and watched the girl run towards the crashing waves with her cousins, squealing as the cool Atlantic ocean reached her shins. She is the most beautiful in these moments. The moments where I catch her with the joy that only children possess in discovering the newness of things. Her blonde cousins dug in the sand, and she dropped to her knees to help. Her smile was replaced with careful determination. On my lap there was a baby covered in sunscreen who was fighting the sleep that the crashing waves induced. Instinctively my heart thought about my son that I couldn't bring home. At that moment a little bird perched near our beach towel, a sign that reminds me that he's never far away....

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Ka-boom

I got an email bomb today detonated by the uncertainty that was bound to come when my boss retired two weeks ago. We went through some serious departmental changes once we all moved up to Ohio. Now these changes, one which includes my promotion, may or may not be called into question. Time is the only way to tell what will become of it all, but the bomb, like most terr.orist acts, did nothing but hurt the innocents along with the intended. I'm walking around now uncertain about the future, and that's not a great feeling to carry around....

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Subtlties

I am briefing my new boss. A Colonel that used to work in my group. I tell him some mundane facts about a project, brief histories to help him make informed decisions. And then I casually say that I made an executive choice about a guy in my shop, and then I see the ever so slight lip thing he does when he is not agreeing with me.

It's passive, and slight, and on any other day I would let it go, but I can't risk pissing him off over something so trivial.

"You don't agree...." I said.
"I didn't say that," he said.
"You don't have to...you're doing that thing with your lip," I said.
"What thing with my lip?!?"
"When you're holding back you do this thing with your mouth,"

I really should learn to keep some things to myself. Trouble is that I can read most people really well. It's a blessing and a curse. I can tell when someone is lying to me at 50 paces. It becomes exhausting and annoying to pick up the cues.

I actually caught my new boss covering his mouth with his coffee cup when he was talking to me today. Guess I made him self conscious. ;)