Do you ever get over the death of a loved one? Do you ever fully recover after trauma, or accident, or a life-threatening illness? Does divorce always leave love a little (or a lot) broken for you? Does financial loss always leave you feeling poor? Does failure always leave you feeling a failure?
When you get a second chance, renewed health, new love, all that you’ve ever dreamed of, do you still rue what you have lost, what might have been?
The biggies. Questions about what pain is acceptable to carry with you (for how long, forever?) and what has to be left behind so you can carry on. Questions about when and whether you have the right to regret, to hold onto grief as a badge of honour, an identity even – about how much of holding-on is just wallowing in victimhood, how much is survivor vanity (look how brave I’ve been), how much is simply survival because that pain got so deep into your bones and releasing it would only break you. Every. Bone. In. Your. Body.
I feel hugely guilty in that I can only honestly say I haven’t gotten over infertility. Not completely. Perhaps I will never fully get over infertility BECAUSE I feel so guilty.
I have wrestled with this guilt and pain for so long now. I can KNOW that the guilt serves no purpose and the pain doesn’t bear re-living. But my bones are getting older, and they ache with a sense of something I can only call regret.
We only recently sold the baby furniture – I held onto it long after its useful life. Why?
We only recently changed health insurance policies – we should have changed long ago and saved hundreds of dollars. Still I paid the higher premium to hold onto the useless coverage for pregnancy and birth. Why?
Such false hope seems as stupid as it is ungrateful, regretful.
I told myself things were done and dusted when I turned 43 – I thought I spent our year on exchange to Canada coming to final terms with that as I cradled our son, stroked his downy head, loved every bit of the baby he was and tried not to grieve the first nine months I’d missed of his life nor the nine months of growing him. Time would lessen that loss just as it had with our daughter. But it would never go away.
And then I turned 44 and felt like I’d lived half my life (lucky me) – surely the fertile half (for what it had not been worth) was finally over and I could move on. How lucky I was to have our two beautiful children, how could I possibly want for anything more? And I didn’t really want a third child anyway – who knows I’m impatient enough with two.
Now I’m nudging 45, and will soon have to officially admit middle-age, yet still that loss lingers. Niggling, like an old fracture that twinges whenever it rains.
Adoption has been a huge blessing in our lives, but it has not ‘cured’ our infertility (or mine anyway) and it was never meant to. I must ungratefully, selfishly say that it has not taken away all the pain. Not that pain that got right into the marrow.
I can write about loss turning into gain, about the magic of alchemy and the yin yang balance between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in our lives. I can write about going with the flow that I raged so hard against when we were doing IVF, before realising it was the very same universal flow that led us to our precious children! But there’s still that pain that won’t go away. I’m a fraud to my own philosophy.
I can admit to whimsical feelings of regret as I did in this post (Not another Baby Shower) but then feel guilty that I’m somehow grudging the gift of our kids, the privilege of parenting ‘someone else’s children’.
I can lay bare my private shame about still not feeling completely satisfied in life, despite being a mother, despite all that I’ve been given and all that others have lost, and wonder whether anyone could ever understand THAT.
I ache, in my bones, when I feel I have no right to. And it hurts.
For me, right now, I cannot separate regret from guilt. If I allow myself to cling to any lingering regrets, then I must feel guilty for doing so. To lament anything is far too indulgent.
Regret sits very uncomfortably with gratitude when you’ve been lucky to adopt two beautiful children.
Perhaps it also sits uneasily if you are ‘lucky’ to survive a life-threatening illness and gain a new lease on life, or to come out the other side of an accident or trauma, alive and thankful for that much at least.
Regret sits uncomfortably with life lessons learned the hard way through divorce or financial crisis, or failure of any kind.
Perhaps it provides a sense of false comfort in grieving the loss of a loved one, but in the end it only makes sense to remember the moments you had, rather than rue the time you might have had.
I want to get to the point where all trace of regret is gone but the pain got into my bones and it’s hard. And as for guilt, well I think that is in my Irish Catholic DNA! I certainly can’t seem to help myself.
So what do I do, what do any of us do to deal with pain that turns to regret and aches in our bones? Learn to live with it, I guess. Feel the creaks and twinges and remember, but build up our survival muscles so we can hold ourselves strong and resilient, so that the pain doesn’t turn our bones brittle. Heal in the only way broken bones do, never quite perfectly.
And then take on life as though it could never break you.
Now as they say in showbiz ‘Go break a leg’.
Linking up with the lovely Essentially Jess today for that great sense of community.