Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Meanderings

This entry is long, personal, a little sad, a little lecture-y, kind of direction-less, and is only barely related to the Sabres and/or hockey. But for whatever reason, it's what popped out when I sat down to write a Thanksgiving post. You've been warned.

I was at the library the other day, sitting at a table in the children's section, flipping through the Christmas books, trying to find a few I thought my boys at school would like. At the table there was a little boy, probably, I don't know 5 or 6, sitting with his dad. It appeared that they were with mom and daughter as well but the little guy was fixated on his dad. I tend to notice parents and small children anyway, but they really caught my attention because I heard the boy ask, "But why is it a blue line? Why isn't it green or purple?" Judging by the dad's reaction, that question was probably one of many, many questions he'd been asked that day. He'd clearly left the "Awww, son, aren't you adorable?" portion of the conversation and moved into, "Oh, god, please make the questions stop!" But from the point-of-view of an innocent bystander, it was pretty cute.

Pretty much as far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a mother. I didn't want a career, I didn't want to work outside of the home, I just wanted to raise a passel of children. I went to college because I felt like I had to but my heart was never in it (and that was reflected in my grades) and I admit, I never thought twice about dropping out shortly before I got married. Looking back this was foolhardy (kids, get your degrees or professional training), but I had my life planned out and having gotten married young - just shy of 22 - things were pretty much on-track.

And that's when things derailed. I thought it was probably not a good sign that we hadn't gotten accidentally pregnant over the course of a few years. And then we couldn't get pregnant on purpose. And then a doctor told me it would, for medical reasons, be very difficult for me to get pregnant without help. And then we tried help - lots of pokey, proddy, invasive, painful, embarrassing, and expensive help - and we still couldn't get pregnant. We were bleeding money, not to mention sanity and emotional well-being so we stopped. Please believe me that if you had children without charts and thermometers and shots and tests, infertility is something that you do not, cannot, and will not ever come close to understanding. It is devastating. (We watched Up last night and the beginning montage was a killer, but the shot that really got me was not the one in the hospital where Carl is comforting Ellie, but the one immediately after where Ellie is sitting in a chair in the yard, eyes closed, still and silent. In that one image, Pixar pretty much nailed it.)

We talked about and looked into other alternatives but without going into a lot of detail, none of them have fit, none of them have worked out. I've spent the last year or so grappling with the idea that there's a very real possibility that I won't ever have children. There are certain things that I've always thought about doing and sharing with a son or daughter, and I've been trying to gently set those things aside, one-by-one. Okay, so I might not ever see my own child read a book for the first time. At least my job is such that I get to work with a new group of young, struggling readers every year. I get to see that light come on when they realize, "Hey, I can read!" and I can make sure they experience lots of Roald Dahl. I might not get to sit down with my own kid and share my favorite movies and TV shows, but I can visit my nephew Luke or have him visit me and make sure he knows lightsabers, and hobbits, and Muppets, and the Truffle Shuffle.

The one thing I've had a very difficult time letting go of, however, is sports. I've always loved sports, both playing and watching. I spent huge amounts of my childhood and teen years playing soccer, basketball, and softball - especially softball - and I loved every moment of it. My mom was a saint and I have never for one second doubted that she loved me, but she was not a sports lover herself. In some ways that was good - she didn't care if I won or lost, didn't complain to my coaches about playing time or strategy, always made sure I was having fun above all else - but she also couldn't toss a ball around with me or throw me pitches or shoot hoops. She always knew who my favorite teams and players were, but she didn't particularly enjoy watching sporting events. When I dreamed of having kids, I dreamed of teaching them to throw and catch and hit, of picking out that first glove and trying on that first uniform. When Mark and I moved to Buffalo, hockey entered the equation, of course. I thought about watching my kids learn to skate, maybe even learning with them. In Birmingham we didn't have any pro sports teams so getting to games was tough, but Buffalo totally solved that problem. How awesome would it be to take my kids to Sabres games and slowly teach them about the game and watch them fall in love with a team or a player the way I did with the Pirates and Andy Van Slyke when I was a kid?

When I go to Sabres games, I always make a trip to the Sabres store. When I go to the Sabres store, I always wander over to the kids side, and I always end up picking up one of the smallest Sabres jerseys, holding it up, studying it from every angle. And for that moment I can almost picture my dream child, a small boy - I admit, it's always a boy - with Mark's dark curls and my blue eyes, jumping up and down with a big grin because he's about to get his first jersey. And I'm pretty sure, in that moment, I can actually feel and hear my heart shattering into a million pieces all over again.

There are many things I'm thankful for this holiday season - my sweet husband, 120 lb. puppies, a job I love, wonderful co-workers, the students, many already world-weary, who let me into their lives every year, hockey, hockey blogs, all the great friends I've made through hockey blogs, those I've met in real-life and those I haven't - but it would be a lie to say that I don't feel like there's a little bit of a hole there that I'm still trying to fill. I don't want to sound like I'm lecturing, but I do hope that those of you who are parents are really embracing and enjoying it. I hope that even when you're piling kids and hockey equipment into a car at 6 a.m. and answering the 87th question about why the lines on the ice are blue and red and not purple and orange, you realize what a privilege it is to be the person who gets to do those things. It's a gift. It really is.


Anonymous said...

Heather, I'm so sorry and there are no words for what you're going through (been there, it sucks--I too gave up). However, I will say that as someone adopted as a disabled 9 year old by a wonderful foster-mother-turned-mom who really loved me, there is also no gift like a parent who really wants you (nstead of a crazy immature one). FWIW, & gentle hugs to you. _gabby in NY

S.A.M. said...

Heather, I know no words I can say will be able to touch this, so I won't even try. I'll just say thank you for sharing yourself with us, your humor, your sorrow, your pain. And I will send you the internet **HUGS** which seem so lame, but you know that I mean it!

Jaime said...

I do not know you except through this bolg but your ability to open yourself up about the important things as well as the silly ones is what always makes me come back. I hope that one day you will find that someone who will fill your hole. I am eternally gtaerful that I have my own little girl to share all of those wonderful moments with and when you get your own special someone, it sounds like you will be great.

Katebits said...

Aw, Heather. <3

Matthew said...

I never would have guessed that my favorite blog posting didnt involve ridicule at Bucky Gleason.

My wife and I went through an identical situation as you and Mark. The only difference (so far) is that after many years of trying and giving up, one of my "snipers" finally put the "biscuit in the basket". More stunning is that our second rookie will arrive in March.

We know what it is like to stare into the sky, convinced it will never happen. While we are no longer in that club, we do appreciate our blessings in a way that most parents can not.

Obviously, I want to say "dont give up", although we had. On a practical front, I would like to remind you that you are not defined by this.

What a wonderful post, great timing.

Now, if the &^$% swords would please start finishing their opportunities!!!!

peter-usrt said...

Great post Heather. Understand the pain for different reasons than yours. I realized a while ago that it wasn't happening for me either. I still get the chance- and relish - to play the role of spoiling uncle(like I did yesterday with my family) playing football with the neices and nephews.

Heather B. said...

Gabby, I'm sorry that having children hasn't worked out for you, but I'm very happy you got the gift of a wonderful mother! Thanks for the hugs.

Sam, same to you. Not lame at all!

Jaime, thanks for the kind words. Give your little one an extra hug for me!

Matthew, I'm so glad you got your happy ending. As I'm sure you know, not feeling defined by it is a very tough thing sometimes. Thanks for the encouragement.

Peter, I suppose there are some benefits to being able to spoil a kid rotten, wind 'em all up, and then send them back to their parents, and then hit the road for a last minute trip, eh? :)

Thanks so much to everyone for receiving a post that is probably a funny fit for a hockey blog with such graciousness. Those of you who responded via email will be getting responses at some point, I promise!

Oh, and eff Mike Richards!

amy said...

Heather thank you for sharing something so personal and so touching with us.

dani said...

I was shocked at the movie "Up." I thought the beginning was horribly sad. Especially for Pixar!

Meg said...

This was a beautiful post, Heather. Your students are so lucky to have someone like you caring for them.

Patty (in Dallas) said...

Such a lovely, personal post, Heather. I wish there was something I could say that would help you, but of course I don't.

Separately, as I've long thought, you write just beautifully.

ElmaGolf said...


Having had many friends experience what you have, I know it is difficult to let go of those dreams.

But I can assure you that the experiences you describe and want to share with a child can be achieved beyond "traditional" child birth.

I was adopted at a very young age, and I have shared those sporting experiences with my adopted parents - including the first time my Mom took me to the Aud. I just received my two orange seats from the Aud, and one of the first people I showed them to was my mother. I told her that I owed my love of the Sabres to her taking me to my first pre-season games when I was just 6 or 7 years old.

I came from a family with one natural born sister and another adopted sister, and the emotions and connections are no different between us all.

The gift of adoption has so influenced my life, that I knew that I would want to give back someday, and I adopted my son 4 years ago. Hearing him chant "Let's Go Buffalo", and sing the "Let's Go Bills!" song is no less fulfilling without a biological connection.

Again, I realize that it is hard to see beyond such a powerful emotional desire, but just wanted to add perspective from someone who has experienced adopted love as a child, sibling and parent (right down to the Socratic method torture of a 4 year old).

Best wishes to you during this holiday period.

Heather B. said...

Dani, the beginning of Up was very, very sad but I do think it made the rest of the movie more powerful. Those Pixar guys know what they're doing, that's for sure.

Amy, Meg, and Patty, thank you so much.

Elma, adoption is something that I'm very open to - if I've learned one thing at my current job it's that I'm absolutely capable of loving and attaching to a child that isn't mine biologically - and we've pursued it a couple of different times through different avenues. Logistically and financially it's yet to work out. I'm really glad that it's been such a powerful thing in your life though. Thanks for sharing.