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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

There is no Such Thing as Closure

It’s about to get real, people, and I like to think I’m as real as it gets. I’m the “tell my life story to a stranger on the bus” kind of person. What have I got to hide from?

Rejection, that’s what.

And here I go again, launching into what might be the most honest post I’ve ever shared on my blog. And even though I can count on my fingers and toes the number of people who actually read this, I still fear rejection. I feel rejection from the people who will read this, who know me, who don’t know me, and who know some of the others, or the circumstances I am about to tell about.

(Insert deep breath) Okay, here it goes.

First, this:

Two weeks ago, I took the little kids to an Easter Egg Hunt. We were all gathered around waiting to get started chalk when I spotted a young girl that I knew from somewhere.  I tried to figure out where I knew her from but I just couldn’t put my finger on it. Finally, I asked her where she went to school and when she told me, I realized I must have seen her over the years while Mitchell and Samuel attended there. I told her that at one point I had FOUR boys at that school at one time. She asked me their names but before I could name them, her grandmother called her by name. And then I realized who she was. She was one of Jeremiah’s classmates from Kindergarten. She was nearly as tall as me, standing there with her Easter basket, and her pierced ears. A lump formed in my throat as I asked her how old she was. “I’m nine,” she replied, “About to be in the fourth grade.” It was hard to picture my little Jeremiah being nine years old. It was hard to picture him finishing third grade. In my heart, he is still that round-faced little five year old with the huge brown eyes and big smile that walked out my life in May of 2011. I said goodbye to Jeremiah and Peniel on the day they left us, but there wasn’t really closure. Then Sunday night Lizzie wanted to draw and I pulled out a stack of drawing paper from the art supply cabinet. In the middle of the blank sheets of paper, there was a drawing of what seemed like an alien and the chunky sloppy writing with the name JEREMIAH in all caps. I guess those boys will always have a part of my heart. I may have peace about where they are, or I may have settled in my heart that they are gone, but I never had “closure.”

And then there’s this:

A few days after Cody’s birthday, when the snow had finally cleared enough to get on the road, the kids and I were going stir crazy. Cody offered to stay home and watch everyone so I could go into my office for awhile and work. I happily accepted his offer. After we all had breakfast, I got in the shower and when I got ready to leave for work, Cody was nowhere to be found. Georgia was about to head out to spend time with friends, so I asked Mitchell and Samuel where Cody was. Mitchell replied, “He had to go somewhere,” which wasn’t actually very helpful. I assumed he had run up to the store to grab a soda, or to his mom’s house for a shower (our pipes had frozen.) I asked Georgia if she could watch the kids until he returned, and I left for work.

Thirty minutes after I got to work, Georgia called me to say that Cody had not returned and she had to leave. I called Cody, but my call went to his voicemail. And I sent a simple text that read: “Are you okay?” before shutting down my work computer and heading back out the door. Rushing back home, I got a panicked call from Cody’s longtime girlfriend. “Something is wrong,” she cried on the phone, “A strange man called Cody and told him the police were looking for him. Something about Cody committing a crime and needing to come to meet with the police.” My mind was racing because I really didn’t understand what was happening. The girlfriend’s mother called me next, saying she was certain that it was all a misunderstanding, that the police had the wrong guy, that Cody would never do anything illegal or inappropriate. I rushed home as quickly as I could and began busying myself with the kids. I hung by the phone and then at 4 pm when I had left my phone in the bedroom while cooking dinner, I missed a call. I will never forget the message or the dread I felt when I heard those words. Cody was calling me from jail because he had been arrested for inappropriate contact with a minor over the Internet. I grabbed my husband’s dresser to keep myself from falling over as I listened to the message. Our Cody? The honor student and star athlete from a dysfunctional family that we had brought into our home and our hearts? The smart, talented, well-mannered kid that we considered our own was in jail?

This happened in January. And I have debated long and hard about sharing it this publicly. But I feel like I have to because to pretend we don’t love him and don’t care about him is to do myself an injustice. People do terrible things sometimes. All people do, even though “terrible” is relative and consequences vary. Cody made a very poor error in his typically solid judgment. He has a long road ahead of him and will have to be very transparent and honest to find his way back. But we love him, and because he is broken and suffering, we are too.

Like Jeremiah and Peniel, Cody has been a son to me- an older son with different needs and different experiences, but a son. And now, like the little ones who left us before him, there is a huge chasm in our life that he used to fill. One day he was there, and the next day he was gone. His room was empty, his clothes were still hanging in the closet. He was gone. There was no closure for me.

And then there’s this:

I have made complete peace with my infertility. Dr. S told me it would “take a miracle” for me to become a mother the natural way. I had one tube left and it was a bad one. I had very poor numbers and I didn’t ovulate. All of those things meant one thing- adoption or very expensive and high-risk medical procedures. I chose adoption. I have never regretted my decision.

On March 26, I woke up feeling strange. I had just had what I thought to be an unusually long and heavy period. I assumed I was low in iron and just feeling weak. I felt nauseous. I couldn’t think of a thing in the world I wanted to eat, and my coffee didn’t even taste right. I stopped to buy a Sprite to settle my stomach and a dollar pregnancy test, for no apparent reason since I had just stopped bleeding two days prior. At work, I put my coffee in the microwave, went into the restroom and peed on the stick. I glanced at the clock, went back to get my coffee, and after the prescribed three minutes, returned to the restroom where I stopped cold in my tracks. It was very, very positive.

And I knew it wasn’t good.

In fact, if I’m gonna be honest, the first words out of my mouth were “Holy shit, no . . .” followed by a lot of crying, pacing the floor, and frantically trying to call John. I wish I could say I was happy to see those two lines. I wish I could say I whispered: “Thank you, Lord” and “Hallelujah, it’s a miracle!” but I knew. I knew I would lose another baby in my body. I knew it was probably already too late.

Later that day an emergency room physician with good intentions told me it might actually be a viable pregnancy. My numbers were low- but it could also just be early in the pregnancy. I tried to hope. I really did.

It took a couple of days to get Medicaid- yes, Medicaid. I am currently a “burden upon society” since I had no other insurance and thankfully met the criteria- broke and positive for pregnancy. The nurse at the health department gave me pamphlets on childbirth and breastfeeding. I filled out a thousand forms and one that asked my estimated due date and the number of babies I was expecting. Without thinking, I wrote 0 for that second question. She saw the number and looked at my shaking hands. I scribbled through the 0 and wrote the number 1 because apparently 0 was not the typical answer. But in my heart, I knew there would be no baby.

In a few more days, they told me what I already knew. My tube had failed me again. But this would be the last time. I begged the doctors to please do surgery, to please just remove the tube, to please just take away the possibility that this would ever happen again.

 A few people with kind hearts but blind eyes have commented that since I can get pregnant, I shouldn’t try and stop the pregnancies. What they mean to say is that I should keep letting God or nature do what it will, and maybe I will get lucky. But I’m 37 in a few weeks. I have a houseful of kids and my life is full. Ectopic pregnancies are life threatening, and that’s not a chance I’m willing to take with 8 kids who depend on me. In fact, I’ve told my church friends that if anything ever happens to me, make sure John remarries. She should be a hard worker who loves to clean, nice to my kids, and ugly as the underside of a boat dock. That way I know there will be no romance between her and my man. J

 I want to tell those few people something about Melissa now – my kids didn’t come from my body, but I would not trade them for children who did. And even if by some stroke of luck or a miracle from God I was able to carry a child in my womb and give birth, nothing would change in my heart. I would not regret the roads that I went down to find my kids. Carrying one that bore my eyes or my nose or my blood type would not mean more than becoming a mom to my little ones. I no longer feel like I am "less" of a mom because I did not give birth to my kids. I no longer feel I was cheated out of ideal motherhood. Yes, I mean it.
This time was different. This time I wasn’t completely consumed and buried under my grief. While the nurses were poking and prodding and digging to find my allusive veins, I was imagining my kids – the way Lizzie throws her head back when she laughs, the way Camden nestles up to me while doing homework, the way Cole spontaneously shouts out “you the best mommy in the world!” at the most unusual times.
Don’t get me wrong- I cried. I cried a lot.  I prayed – I prayed a lot. I had a little fantasy for a few days. In the fantasy, Lizzie was a big sister. Maybe Lexi would be her name if it was a girl. Joshua for a boy. Josh Line. Lexi Line. Lizzie and Lexi. At night for those few days, I patted my belly and thought about that tiny little life that was part of John’s body, and part of mine.

All of us who have lost a child – no matter how we lost them, we are part of a club. We are part of a club that we never wanted to be a part of. We have loved and loved and loved and nurtured and held and hoped and cherished and protected, and have lost.

Maybe after years and years,

Maybe after only one year –

Maybe after just a few months, or a few weeks, or a few days. Maybe after only a few moments.

We have lost and then looked around at the emptiness.

We have ached for those lost children every day.

On May 19, I will have a surgery that will remove the one tube I still have. This will be my last pregnancy. Maybe it’s my attempt at closure. But somehow I know it really won’t close this chapter of my life. I will still feel pain sometimes, I will still remember.

For me, the pain seems to come when I least expect it. I am cleaning a bedroom and turn and see in just the right light – the name of a little boy scribbled into the wall in magic marker. A little boy who lived here once, who sat on my lap and made me laugh, who learned to read while he lived with me. Or I am walking through the store and I see the cucumbers and think of the young man who would never eat a salad but I could always slice up cucumbers and he would eat every one. Another time I see a sonogram picture on facebook and I think about my ultrasounds, my empty womb. Those moments take my breath away. For a moment, my heart stops beating. And I know that is the closest I will ever come to experiencing closure. As fantastic as it sounds, closure doesn’t ever really happen in this life. It will happen one day, in Eternity, when all of us gather together and we are perfectly whole and perfectly well before God. When all the earth has passed away, and we are no longer imperfect creatures who struggle with pain, longing, discomfort, temptation, regret, remorse, and fear. When we are made whole we can truly love and be loved. In Eternity, we will be complete – no broken body parts, no loss of life, no anxiousness and wondering what might have been.

Until then, we endure. We love with all our hearts, and we try our best not to turn around and look behind us.

To all the children I have lost- I will see you again one day.