Saturday, September 29, 2007

All in the Family

Just before we went out to a birthmother panel, my DH unloads about the rather "lively" discussion he had with my sister and her husband about racism the night before. For crying out loud, I go out to work for a few hours and they manage to get into an argument. The main contention seems to be that my sister asserts that black people can't be racist. Sigh. Oh yeah and the fact that when my sister found out I was dating a white guy, she wasn't too happy about it. She said it wasn't his colour, she just didn't like him. Not that she even knew him or took the time to get to know him. I remember that, she barely even looked at him even though the first time she met him at my mum's place, he brought a chicken burger. And that she wouldn't like it if her son came home with a white girl however, an Asian girl would be okay. That set my husband off. He told her she was a racist and that she was just like my older sister. Cripes. My sis didn't like that, I'm sure as she doesn't think too highly of my eldest sister. My brother in law apparently agreed with my husband since he didn't come to his wife's defence. My hubby and him get along quite well.

So as he's telling me all this, I decide to not defend my sister for a change. I do that a lot it seems. I listen and realize he's offended and hurt by her attitude, especially since she's sitting in his house. I let him know that the original plan of having her and her family move in with us for a while after they sell their home may not be such a hot idea. He tells me that he's willing to wait and see what happens.

My husband has very high expectations for people who call themselves family. He has seen what I have gone through these past 4 years, dealing with my mum, the tears, despair and frustration as I've sorted through her life and try to put it in order. We've gotten all the late night, early morning teary phone calls, we go to the care conferences, the doctor appointments, we put our life on a schedule to accommodate her, and through all of it, we tried to get pregnant. It's been hard on me, on both of us, and what he wants to see is her extending herself to me with care and compassion. And he doesn't see it. He sees self-centredness. This makes him very, very angry.

My sister's life hasn't been easy either, I know she feels guilt about not being here, she's busy working and caring for her only son, who spent the first few years with frequent illnesses, her husband's frequent unemployment and inability to assist her in family organizational matters. She doesn't eat very much and she's often tired. I also understand our family's karma. We don't demonstrate a great deal of affection with one another, we hold things in, act strong and cope as best we can. We don't confront.

It was hard to get a lot of chanting done this week, but I did get it a little in. And when the daimoku (chanting nam myo ho renge kyo) ran out, I resorted to white wine. Yep, you can pick your nose but you can't pick your family. Meh.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Almost.. a baby

Not but 12 hours after I got back from my Buddhist conference, I received an email from our adoption agency regarding a young woman in San Francisco who was looking for parents for a biracial child. Wow. I sat looking at the email blankly for a few minutes. I considered blind panic for a minute, then pushed that thought aside. My DH had just left that morning to go to Toronto for a business trip. I called and found out that we couldn't be considered candidates because we had not completed our homestudy.

I actually breathed a sigh of relief.... and disappointment. Mmmm. The baby boy was due in December. I really would like a girl, but at this point, beggars can't be choosy. Oh, and yeah, I don't have quite enough money yet.

Speaking of boys, my sister and her family is here visiting with us for a week. Her son is an exuberant 4 year old. He gets up real early. Her main reason for visiting is our mum, of course. She wants to spend some time with her. Which is good. I've shouldered all of the responsibility of caring for her since she had her stroke and her dementia and I rarely get any time off so to speak. And it's nice to spend time with my little nephew. Yep, raising a kid is tough work, but boy when you they wrap their arms around you, it's heaven.

So I'm savoring my time lazing in my bed with a cup of coffee reading the newspaper.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Coming Out

Yep, I did it. I came out of the closet. The infertility closet that is.

I was asked to give my experience of Caledon at our culture centre for our chapter. At first, I kept thinking of a way I culd share my experience without mentioning my infertility, and I could have. But experiences should be deeply personal and I could not share without sharing the whole truth.

Some of my Buddhist buddies know what I have gone through, but it's not public knowledge. Honestly, I had always felt ashamed at my inability to conceive and give birth to a child. I was waiting for years to tell my story but I wanted a happy ending. I wanted to be able to pat my tummy or bring in my baby in front of the community as a testament to faith and perserverance. I imagined the whole thing, I would hold my child up with tears in my eyes. There wouldn't be dry eye in the whole place. I would feel so victorious and happy. Snap back to reality - and I was feeling hopeless, resigned, and pretty fucking miserable. I wasn't suicidal or anything, but as my husband once told me, I wasn't "fun" anymore.

So I basically shared what was in my previous post. There wasn't a lot of people, thank goodness, no line of women rushing me telling me their infertility story, but I still touched people's hearts. That always makes me feel good. I want to create value even in my misfortunes. But I did see one woman smiling and nodding her head and I happen to know she's infertile and knows exactly what it's like.

You know, I actually feel hopeful today.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Bodhisattva of Infertility

Well, I'm back from the Women's Group Conference. It was it amazing. I'm still trying to process it all. I heard so many incredible experiences, I was often in tears or just plain speechless. After all my efforts at trying to conceive, after all the millions of daimoku, creative visualizations, blah, blah, blah, my faith was really shaken, I could use a little guidance. After all, why were my prayers not answered as I was promised? I was looking for a way to revitalize my spirit. The bus ride from the airport to the centre accentuated my feelings of frustration. Most of the conversations I overheard revolved around the women's children. I didn't have anything to add so I stared out the window and prayed the rest of the weekend's topics didn't include how to be a better mom.

It all took place at Caledon, it's like a Buddhist retreat, but it's also available for the public when it's not being used by SGI members. The 4 days are filled with chanting, lectures about Buddhist writings, planetary citizenship, experiences, entertainment, great food and of course endless chatting with women from all over Canada. I organized a forum theatre presentation based on the SGI-USA youth Victory over Violence program.

All the women had to carve time from their busy lives and families to attend this year's conference. Even though I, like the other Western region members, suffered from jet lag, I still stayed up late talking with my roommate, sharing my troubles and exchanging encouragement.

I heard an experience from a petite, musically gifted woman who overcame uterine fibroid cancer. I can't tell her whole experience but she told us how full of gratitude she was for her fellow members who chanted nonstop for her recovery. Another woman related how fellow members who through deep compassion for her, she decided that she owed it to them to fight for her own life. One woman shared shared how her chronic illness lead to to contribute to a new protocol for a metropolitan hospital patient program. Late night conversations continued into the night over cookies and coffee or in the dorm rooms in our pajamas.

I told my roommate, whom I had known while I was in the Young Women's Group a few years ago, my tale of infertility woe. She, like many of other young women I had shared so many good times, had gone on to marriage and children. The last time I had spent any time with her I had brought her first son a stuffed toy. She was so kind to me, so caring.

Senior leaders gave guidance to those who wanted it in private rooms. Now these leaders are women who have practiced for many, many years and they never tell you what to do. It's primarily guidance, inspiration and encouragement based on the writings of our mentor, Pres. Ikeda or the gosho (writings/letters from Nichiren Daishonin). What was my guidance?

I was encouraged to realize that my mission just may be to comfort those who have suffered through what I have. To find value in this mission. I can still be a mother, it just may not be in the way I expected. I may have had lots of children in another lifetime (who cares, what about this lifetime). I was encouraged to change my attitude to one of appreciation about what I do have. There was more, but basically, that was the message.

Definition of a Bodhisattva

After the rise of Mahayana, bodhisattva came to mean anyone who aspires to enlightenment and carries out altruistic practice. Mahayana practitioners used it to refer to themselves, thus expressing the conviction that they would one day attain Buddhahood. In contrast with the Hinayana ideal embodied by the voice-hearers and cause-awakened ones who direct their efforts solely toward personal salvation, Mahayana sets forth the ideal of the bodhisattva who seeks enlightenment both for self and others, even postponing one's entry into nirvana in order to lead others to that goal. The predominant characteristic of a bodhisattva is therefore compassion.

So that makes me a Bodhisattva of Infertility? Well, if that's the case,there are many bodhisattvas of infertility out there. (I'm thinking of Pamela Jeanne in particular.) In attempting to discover our own enlightenment and share it with others, we are bodhisattvas of the earth.

I also received guidance through another friend. She told me that I seem to be always
talking about walls, how every way I seem to be blocked in my life, how much I analyzed and agonized about what to do and how I should do it. My roommate chimed in she remembered something that Pres. Ikeda once wrote. If the path before me is blocked, then fly. Tears flooded my eyes. I've been so scared of not being able to control things that cannot be controlled. What if we can't get the money? What if we invite more heartache and disaster into our lives by adopting? And now I could understand that all that worrying, fretting, trying to intellectualize my way out of my hell just resulted in depression and helplessness.

If the path before me is blocked, then fly. I know what this means for me. What does it mean to you?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Who am I?

I'm an actress and after many years of sacrifice, I had achieved a small modicum of success. And as long as I was booking gigs and making money in my chosen field, I could feel good about myself and who I was. I felt successful and powerful. And when I stopped booking gigs, my self esteem would quickly erode. I went from temp job to temp job, waiting for my big break. I wanted to be a more positive, well rounded person who could be happy and enjoy her life no matter what and when I became a Buddhist, the practice definitely uplifted my life and perspective on life.

Fast forward to the recent past when I was determined to become a mother in the usual fashion. And after the unfortunate outcome, I was once again face to face with the "who am I now?" question. So much time, so much sacrifice, so much expense (financial and emotional) had gone into the effort. My ultimate creative moment was a non-event. For years, I'd assumed I'd get married and have kids by the time I was 30 and be a series regular TV star. When I hit 30, I figured I just had to postpone things for a little longer. I had just started to figure out the kind of woman I wanted to be. And then I thought I'd never meet Mr. Right and almost settled for Mr. Wrong. And when I did meet Mr. Right, I really had to figure out how to make myself happy no matter what. I grew up a lot.

This whole infertility bag has taught me a lot about my ego. I've been thoroughly humbled. I doubted my faith, I doubted my ability to ever feel peace of mind again and I still struggle with how to reconcile my sense of femininity with the body I've been given in this life. This body that could carry my through a 10K race could not carry me through a pregnancy. Not that I'm an athlete in any sense of the world, but I've always been healthy and strong. I thought by doing all the right things and believing with all my heart, that giving birth to our child would only be a matter of time and persistence. I've always been the one that people come to nurturing and care. You know, the "mother" of the group. I confess I don't feel very feminine these days.

You know there's one thing that a Buddhist knows for sure - life isn't fair. It's how you react to life's challenges that counts. So aside from the emotional eating, a fibroidy uterus, and unemployment, I'm not doing too badly.

I'm off to a Buddhist conference in a few days, and I hope to come back spiritually refreshed and ready to deal with more paperwork and social workers.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Lesson to Learn

We finished another educational on-line course this morning. This one went a little bit better than the last. We actually learned something. We learned about how to handle questions that may arise from a young child, like "Did I come out of your tummy?". And how to look beyond the question and address the real need of the child. We talked a lot about learning to think about the needs of a child versus what we would instinctively do or say from our own point of view. My DH grew up with a lot of anger and abandonment issues because his parents didn't give much thought to explaining divorce to him or his older siblings. My own parents marriage was fractured before they divorced and full of rancor and disappointment. No one spoke the real truth.

Strangely enough later, my sister called me from Georgia and told me she heard from a family friend that our father wanted to see her and her son. She didn't want to see him at all. That's a long story. Suffice to say we both have issues with our father. He wasn't a monster, he just wasn't a good dad and continues to be an ass. I told her to think of her son first, it wasn't about how she felt about dad. I asked her if her little boy would enjoy seeing his grandfather. That our dad wouldn't be around forever. Mmmm. Think there's a lesson in there for me. Betcha I'll be in her shoes soon enough.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Take my Fibroids, please!

I went to see a radiologist yesterday about fibroid embolization. I was lucky to even get the consultation as soon as I did. It's often really difficult to see a specialist in BC in less than 6 weeks. I had to have an ultrasound first and I drank the prerequisite 4 8oz. glass of water. Which was probably a mistake for me. There's a reason I don't drink a lot of water in a short amount of time. I bloat up like a whale and can't hold it. I can barely get through a 45 minute walk through the park with my dog. I was really uncomfortable during the procedure and by the time I was done, the technician was trying to explain something to me and give me some papers to fill out, I couldn't even hear her. I left and gingerly walked past the waiting room to the washroom. Holy crap!

Anyways, then I went to see the doctor to see what he had to say about my situation. He first asked if I had considered a hysterectomy. Why is it that doctors throw the word around like it's a panacea for a woman's troubles? I asked if he would like his balls removed. He laughed, but I hope he got my point. If I have a choice about whether to have major surgery that increases my chance of having an emergency hysterectomy or a non invasive procedure which has fewer risks, I'll take the latter, thank you very much. He did caution me that though I was a good candidate for the procedure, my bladder problems might not lessen. Women "my age" have those problems. Really. Hey, pass me the Depends please. My least favourite phrase, "a woman your age" was used as well. The next time I hear that phrase from a medical professional, I vow stop them mid sentence and warn them that it makes me hostile and prone to violence.

So I told him to put my name on the waiting list. Yes, that's right. Waiting list. Welcome to BC. Could be waiting 4 months. Then I went for another pee. I betcha the surgery list is shorter. Mmmm. We'll see. And another pee.

Monday, September 3, 2007

A New Perspective

My husband came home the other night with a not so great experience about home study from his friend who has completed the process. He was pretty riled up. To be brief, her caseworker was very patronizing and negligent. I only hope that we don't have the same experience with our social worker. He really resents the process we have to go through. He understands why it's needed, but I think that anger is really hurt. I can certainly understand that. It's just another reminder of our infertility. You can barely watch the news or read the paper without hearing about some toddler ingesting GHB from a parent's water bottle, or kids living in a marijuana grow-op. We feel as we have to know answers to questions that actual parents get to figure out on their own without someone taking notes on them.

We've decided to really talk about what we're going to say and not to say when we have our next visit. The social worker will be conducting separate interviews and we want to be on the same page. Which is a great way for us to begin open communication about this whole process. I want her to get to know us as the good people that we are. But I'm also a pretty open and forthright person. I just don't want to say anything that might be used against me later.

"So, do you drink alcohol? If so, how often?" "Well, I got wasted on my birthday a couple of months ago. I had 7 lemon drop martinis, and boy was I wasted!" Maybe I'll skip that story.

I have to guard against that constant wanting to prevent myself from further pain. I want to transform my narrowminded perspective. I went to my Buddhist dicussion meeting last week and I felt really encouraged. We were talking about obstacles and "devilish functions" and what they really mean in our lives. When I say devilish functions, I'm not talking about some evil force with a tail and brimstone cologne. I'm talking about fear and doubt. That's what gets in the way of faith and the belief in yourself to overcome all obstacles. And having had my ass kicked around by infertility, I know my faith has been battered around as well. All the crap we went through left us feeling quite defeated and now we are jumping through another set of hoops again.

Buddhism is about winning or losing in your life. And I thought when we didn't get pregnant and give birth to the child I had yearned for, I had lost. I certainly felt like a part of me died along with that dream. But maybe my battle is not over. Years ago, I read this guidance from Daisaku Ikeda. I'd like to change the feeling that all this paperwork, all the interviews, etc. are not obstacles, but opportunities for me to become a better person, a stronger person than I am right now.

You Are the Hope of the World!

Buddhism teaches that the lotus flower grows in muddy water. What this means is that our supremely noble lives continue to shine even amid the harshest of life's realities, just like the pure white lotus flower that blooms unsoiled by the mud.

Having gone through what you have, there is pain and suffering in others' hearts that only you can notice. Having suffered what you have, there is true love and
affection that only you can find. There are definitely people out there who need you. If you give up on yourself, it is only you who will lose.

Nothing, no matter what happens, can change your inherent
worth. Please have courage. Please tell yourself that you are not
going to let this ordeal defeat you.