Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Octo Mom: The Interview

When I first started the Octo Mom series it was only for me. It took a while to decide if I was going to let those posts be read by the general public. They were very personal to me, and it wasn’t anyone’s business but ours - mine and Andy’s. But I had a nagging feeling that others could use the information, other women, especially older women that felt they were “aging out” of the pregnancy option could find solace in my story too. But would they really? Or would the world say “for crying out loud Jan, just stop getting pregnant already. How long does it take for you to learn a lesson? How hard do you have to be hit over the head?” I was going to be opening myself up for a lot of criticism from the world if I allowed the story to be told on that level.

But I felt compelled to do it anyway, for reasons I'll give later.

And then a reporter, a writer from New York ran across my blog while doing research for an article. She read this blog  5, 6, 7, Lies I've Told and then she called me to ask if I would talk about OCTO MOM in her magazine. I was both flattered and worried. Flattered that she liked the blog and all at once TERRIFIED to open it to people outside of my Facebook friends. It brought it into perspective. If some random writer was doing research for an article and could find my blog, anyone could. It really is…P.U.B.L.I.C.

I wasn’t sure if I wanted that kind of attention. I’m pretty happy with my readership. I see that they are from all over the world, but they are silent for the most part. They rarely comment. If I post anything even slightly controversial, well…I don’t ever post anything very controversial. Just my own stories mostly. And my readers don’t often comment unless it really applied to them, or helped them in a way. And then they usually send it to me privately. It’s not meant to make a ruckus. Come on in, read if you want, or don’t.

But with this new interview, they might comment negatively on my insufferable need to have a child. I have admitted and written about my deepest desire and I don’t want public scrutiny. But I may be inviting it. Big time.

And that’s okay. Because of my blog, I’m okay. I understand now how strange it might look to outsiders. It even looks strange to me now.

So far, no one has mocked me for bringing this kind of emotional beating upon myself. In fact, people were emailing me privately about how mad they were that I didn’t tell them sooner, saying that if I’d have surrounded myself with support, maybe I would have had an easier time emotionally. I brought the solitude of it, the lone mourning upon myself for lying about my miscarriages. My own mother never really knew the count until I posted the blog about it. It’s not like she was ticking off a chart. I just didn’t tell her all the time.

I lied. Or…I didn’t always tell her the whole truth.

Today's interview, nearly two hours in length, got me thinking. Why did I feel like I had to lie about being pregnant? Even to my own mother?

I rationalized that I was trying to protect her from the worry. I wanted to save her from the sadness of it. No one would choose to add more sadness to their life. I didn’t need to share the wealth of it that was percolating in me. I could handle it on my own. Andy seemed to be handling it without telling his mom either. We also told ourselves that we didn’t want to get their hopes up. Burying Noah was so hard on them that I vowed to keep it a secret until I knew, without a doubt, that the baby I was carrying was healthy and ready to come out. So we decided we wouldn’t tell people until it was beyond obvious. Until the only result of the pregnancy was concrete H.A.P.P.I.N.E.S.S. Woot! I would be sacrificing the first three of four months of joy, keeping the secret to myself, for the real deal. I could do that.

But sometimes I couldn’t. The lies got too tricky to keep track of, as lies do. If I had doctor’s orders to lay down, I was telling my boss at school “I have a migraine,” and telling my boss at the college “I have something I have to do at the high school,” hoping the two worlds wouldn’t collide. If I’d used the migraine excuse too much, I would race toward the garbage can to vomit at rehearsal and say to the kids “which one of you little buggers gave me the flu?,” and call the Primary president (church leader) with some excuse about a “family emergency.” (Which, let’s be honest, hahaha, it was.)

And sometimes I needed my mom and sister’s help, their secret support, their love and ultimately, because they had all had children successfully, I needed their wisdom and education. But eventually I was learning more about miscarriages than any of them cared to know. Or were lucky enough to escape. So I kept it to myself sometimes. Each time I got pregnant I so wanted to tell the world like normal people do. I felt cheated out of the joy of that. But it was for the greater good. I thought.  

But because we could not afford expensive, “last chance,” surgical fertility treatments, I was also banking on God to kick in His part. A miracle would have been nice. But what if He didn’t? I mean there are only so many rules of the universe He can manipulate. But what about that scripture I so loved “…with God all things are possible.”  Note that it doesn’t say “…all things WILL happen.” I knew, deep in my soul, that the equipment was also part of that equation. And, again, because I am a type-A personality, I hide my insecurities like Meip hid Anne Frank. If there were plumbing problems, WHY did I continue to get pregnant? Because no doctor could tell me what the problems were exactly without surgeries, tests, and TIME to study it all. The thing I didn’t have. The nemesis.

I think “time” must have been on the bargaining block in the pre-earth life when Satan was desperately trying to salvage his pride after losing the war in heaven… (don’t worry…if you aren’t Mormon, skip the next part…it’s an inside joke of sorts).

God:      Your plan has been voted down. These kids are pretty adamant about getting to choose freely.
Satan:    Dang, I’m not going to have anything to do for eternity.
God:      Not necessarily. Agency requires opposition in all things. I’ll give them flowers…
Satan:    And I’ll give them weeds…Yeah…I kinda like it.
God:      But remember, you will only have the power to bruise them, but they will have power to crush                                       you. Weeds can be pulled.
Satan:    Flowers have to be planted in their season. So….let’s put a timer on them.
God:      Urgency can be good. I’ll give them enough time to try a lot of different things…
Satan:    And I’ll shut it down with age and sickness…
God:      Time, huh?...I don’t like it, I won’t abide by it myself, but I don’t want them wandering around out there forever. They have to come back home eventually. Alright…you can have time.

I’m pretty sure that’s not how it happened, but you get my drift. I’ve never been a friend of time. I’ve always consider it “a tool of the devil.” I’ve tried to rush it, I’ve tried to stop it and I’ve always needed more of it.

By lying about, or being silent about my pregnancies, I felt I was giving myself more time. As if the molecules and cells would eventually align themselves and surely they needed time to experiment with different combinations too. Until they got it right, and they would. I hoped, sooner than later.

But I was really just kidding myself….protecting my pride.

I’ve only come to know that today, because I was able to talk about it, come clean about it, to a girl I don’t even know. I’ve never seen her face, she just let me talk about why I lied about my pregnancies. Why I didn’t seek help when there were people all around me willing to suffer with me...and I found out that talking to someone about it revealed so much! Who'da thunk? A revelation. Need therapy much, Jan?

But why didn’t she just use the blog, quote from the blog, I asked myself. I’ve never been good on my feet. In a blog you are able to go back, correct yourself, make it sound better. You can take time. Hahaha. I imagine it wouldn’t be as authentic, as it needed to be.

In an interview, you say what’s in your heart, you improv in a way. Improvisation is fundamental training for actors but I never liked it. Not that the blog isn’t honest – it’s surely that, but I like control. Writing allows me a certain control. The Truth is total control if you are committed to it. So I committed to give the details including things like the blood, the colander, the pain, the emotional toll. And that’s what appealed to the readers. The truth.

The interview also opened up a sealed box of doubt…I wonder still…was I trying to protect people from the worry and sadness…or protect myself from feeling stupid? For looking weak? For wanting a child so badly, that I would allow myself to get pregnant time after time, only to lose those babies one by one to the green colander…or to a tiny casket the size of a man’s shoebox? I allowed that! I made that happen! For crying out loud I created that situation! And Andy, in his grand sympathy for my desire cooperated willingly in the pain…even though he didn’t want to sometimes. He knew better. But I needed him, L.I.T.E.R.A.L.L.Y. He wanted me to be happy. That’s all. He would suffer too, for me. The truth is, I felt irresponsible because I knew the equipment wasn’t working, and I felt that I was putting my own desire before anyone else’s feelings. But part of me was furious that I couldn’t have a baby like normal people do, or rich people do. So I did everything I could to de-emphasize my pain. I’m okay! We’re okay! What can we do for you?

Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard?
'Tis not so; all is right.
Why should we think to earn a great reward
If we now shun the fight?
Gird up your loins; fresh courage take.
Our God will never us forsake;
And soon we'll have this tale to tell-
All is well! All is well!

          (Mormon Hymn, Come, Come Ye Saints)

So some new things came to the surface today because of the interview. New lessons.

This lesson is sure: It’s okay to keep your secrets if that makes you feel better in the short term. You know what finally made me feel better about it? Blogging. Unleashing the monster that was growing inside of me and encapsulating it on the computer for all to read makes me feel awesome! Getting it out hasn’t gotten rid of it. But it turned it from a negative to a positive. I’m so grateful to those of you that have sent emails or private messages about your own pain. It makes me feel part of a bigger group! I hear you! I need to hear you! It took me years and years to decide it okay to bring it to the surface, and two sisters with blogs to show me the way. Thank you Paula and Penny (and welcome JoEllen to the group!)

Lesson Two: There’s nothing wrong with you if you crave having children. That is your God-given instinct to fulfill the measure of your creation. I believe I may have gotten an overdose of that in the pre-earth life. Should have read the bottle. Anyway, the authentic truth is that a miscarriage is evidence of things that aren’t working. Things that are dysfunctional. Things that shouldn’t be. And for me, that truth helped me understand that a miscarriage was best. It didn’t take the pain away, but it helped me emerge a little from the rabbit hole as I just tried to survive. It also helped me have the courage to stop getting pregnant just because I could. I was finally able, after 7 miscarriages and the death of a baby with birth defects, to say “enough is enough” for me. I’m no one’s counselor on how many miscarriages a person ought to go through. But I know for me, if I had another one, I might end up “in the loony bin” as my grandma used to say. I can be of better service raising other people’s kids. I know that for sure. That needs to be enough.

Lesson Three: A miscarriage creates an emotional wound. It’s okay to admit that you are hurting. You aren’t weak because you tell people. You need support. I’ve learned since I started this blog, that a physical wound is far easier to get over than an emotional one but that doesn’t make it superior. It just makes it easier to see. It’s sometimes easier to help a person with a meal, a card, or a phone call, if you KNOW what has happened and can see it. But sometimes you won’t know. And we cannot fault others for not helping us if we insist on keeping those secrets.

Lesson Four: If you help other people get over their wounds, your wounds go with it. I went back to work and looked for kids that needed me. I wanted to feel good at something. I can tell you the though, from the sufferers perspective, sometimes people don’t want you to feel sorry for them. So I do the drop and run method. Drop the meal, card, flowers or treat on the doorstep and then run. You don’t have to see their face, or know how much they appreciate it. They just do. Even if they don’t want to admit there’s something wrong…yet. You don’t even have to put your name on it, because there were times when I didn’t have the emotional strength to write a thank you card for a meal and I was glad I didn’t know who sent it – I just sent prayers back in return. I didn’t want to admit I was in a weakened state. Most of all, I wanted to avoid your empathetic pain too because…choices I made caused your pain and I feel bad about that too. It’s tricky and compounded….best just drop and run.

I have learned now to pray for occasions to help people that may be suffering from depression or long-term disabilities that might not be visible. God has presented me with amazing opportunities to forget about my wounds.

So lesson four creates lesson five: Time isn’t all bad…time also heals all wounds. Or at least, time diminishes the clarity of the hurt. I put my big girl panties on and decided it was time to come clean and help others. It took time to come to that. And my blog takes time. But I prayed for an opportunity to help who I could and I got interviewed by a national magazine. I hope somebody needs that too. But even if they don’t, I do. I can admit that now.

David Lindsay-Abaire wrote the most beautiful play for me called “Rabbit Hole” about a couple dealing with the loss of their 4 year-old son. (Okay, he didn’t write it for me, but I like to think he did.) Nicole Kidman and the ever-incredible Dianne Weist gave the mother/daughter relationship life a few years ago in film form. I’ve included the film scene here, and the text from the play which is just slightly different.

Becca:  Does it ever go away?

Nat:     No. I mean, not for me anyway, it hasn’t. It's goin' on eleven years. It changes though.

Becca: How?

Nat:    At some point, it becomes bearable. It turns into something that you can crawl out from under, and carry around like… a brick in your pocket. And you even forget it for a while. Then you reach in for whatever reason, and there it is. Oh, right . . . that, which could be awful, but not all the time. It’s kind of . . . not that you like it exactly, but it’s what you’ve got instead of your son. So you carry it around. And uh, it doesn’t go away.

Here's the YouTube-d scene:

CLICK ME for the amazing scene

I don't think anyone could have described it better. But I believe sharing my story will eventually dissipate it into a large enough group that my portion of it might feel...smaller. Like a small rock instead of a brick. And blogging is helping me take those rocks out of my pocket. I promise I won't always tell you everything, (I'm such a work-in-progress) but what gets told will be honest.  So thanks for reading. And thanks, Libby, for noticing.