Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Soft Spots {Part 1}

I have some issues in my life that I consider my soft spots. They are those things, those memories, those experiences, those griefs, that despite time and intention haven't quite fused together to created a healed wholeness. They are the things in my life that I still carry around, that I can't quite release or lay down. When Britton was a new born I used to cradle him and watch the soft spot on the top of his head. I was so afraid I might touch it too harshly. When I'd brush the few stands of blond hair on the top of his perfectly round head I would be extra gentle with the soft spot. There were even times I could see his spot rise and fall with his breathing and his heart beat. It was like this raw, vulnerable part of him that was not quite ready for this world. I imagine if you could see my soul, whatever material a soul might be made of, you'd find these same types of places riddled throughout--these places that need a little bit of extra gentleness. You can't really see them from the outside but the evidence is there and every once in awhile you will know you've touched a tender place, much like a bruise whose blue-black discoloration has diminished, but, when rubbing your fingers across the wounded area, you are quick to recognize the familiar tenderness.

Because I am choosing to focus the next 21 days on my emotions, sitting with them, listening to them, honoring them, it's hard not to think about the soft spots in my life. The pain I carry deep within slips to the surface from time to time and I know there is still work to do. The story I'm about to share with you is one of those tender places of my soul. Although many people in my life lived with me through the details and events, I've never really talked about any of it. And I've never written about it here. It's not easy to talk or write about for several reasons. This story involves people I love dearly and I want to protect them. They don't get a chance to defend themselves here and so I feel I must do that for them. In the past I've chosen to do that through my silence. In addition, addressing my feelings out loud means I have to look honestly at myself. I have to revisit the regrets and the failures, those things that I've done that I can't go back in time and change. And it also means that I am putting myself in a position to choose where to go and what to do from this point forward. None of those things are very easy. But I'm choosing tonight to sit in this room, alone, so that my tears can overtake me if necessary, and weave a piece of my story.

As most of you know by now Britton wasn't a planned child. Trey and I had been dating a little over two years when I discovered I was pregnant. I was both scared and excited. I'd been having problems with my body and in April of 2002 my PCP told me I wasn't ovulating any longer and should make an appointment with an Ob/Gyn in order to get my menstrual cycles regulated and force my body into ovulation again. I had been enduring menstrual cycles that lasted 3 weeks out of the month and it was miserable. Because I paid this visit to my PCP the last day of my insurance was effective I had to wait until August 2002, when my new insurance plan became effective, in order to see an Ob/Gyn. The Ob/Gyn concurred and placed me on a heavy duty birth control pill to regulate my cycles. For several months I continued to experience the 3-week-long cycles and suddenly one day I realized I'd gone longer than a week without spotting. I also noticed my breasts were very tender. My sister, who had already birthed 2 children, suspected I was pregnant and suggested I take a home pregnancy test. I thought there was no way she could be right but bought a cheap two-for-one test just to check. I tried it and noticed a faint, oh-so-faint, blue line. I took the second one--same thing.

The following day was filled with questions and decisions. I didn't know how I was going to tell Trey and seriously considered breaking up with him, disappearing from his life, and raising my baby on my own. You see, if there was one thing Trey had made perfectly clear from the beginning it was HE NEVER, NEVER, NEVER wanted to be a father EVER. I wasn't 100 percent sure but I was pretty certain that if I told him he would view it as the end of the world. I decided to purchase one more home test (a better quality one), and this time I drove to Trey's apartment to take it. I disappeared into his bathroom while he nervously waited on the balcony smoking cigarettes. Sure enough BOLD blue line. I stayed in there, where I was safe, for what seemed like eternity before I finally came out and broke the news to him. He took it worse than I had expected. He cried, he ranted, he cursed, he drank, he left the house with a friend. The next day I missed work so that I could stay home with him and make sure he didn't hurt himself. He stayed in bed crying for the first few days. He barely functioned and only left the house for the things that were absolutely necessary like attending class.

Trey was the hardest person to tell but I knew my family would be difficult as well. When I called my mom I totally set myself up for failure and swore I'd never put myself in that position again. She wouldn't talk to me for days. Months later I realized she hadn't told any of her friends and when I let them in on my good news I could see her rolling her eyes and shaking her head. Next I had to tell my grandparents. They had such high hopes for me as a future minister that I knew I would break their hearts. But I was proud of myself for telling them instead of allowing them to hear through the family grapevine. Both of my younger sisters conceived children out of wedlock and neither of them ever told my grandparents. My grandparents were the last to know because there has always been great pressure to not disappoint them. I called and told my grandmother who was shocked but tried her hardest to sound happy for me. Before hanging up the phone she stabbed me with an arrow of shame when she said, I'm happy for you but you know this isn't the way God wants it.

I saw my Ob for the first time a month later, in November 2002. I went alone. The doctor and I were both surprised to discover that my previous menstrual problems had masked my pregnancy and instead of being an estimated 10 weeks I was in fact 17 weeks--almost half-way through my pregnancy! I was immediately scheduled for a sonogram where I discovered I was carrying a precious little boy.

All my life I dreamed of being a mother but I had seriously begun to think that it wasn't in the cards for me and that I should prepare myself for the disappointment. Now I was having a baby. All the times in the past when I had imagined being pregnant I thought it would be a time when I was happy and glowing and supported by the people in my life. My reality was a far cry from that and quite honestly I feel robbed. Brittons is three-years-old now but any time I think back on my pregnancy I feel robbed. Instead of being loved and nurtured I spent my pregnancy fighting shame and catering to Trey's depression.

Trey never changed his mind about wanting to be a father. The following months were spent in an emotional nightmare. His fear, his woundedness, paralyzed him. I don't know how many late night conversations we had in which he would drunkenly swear he would not change, he would not give, he would not sacrifice, he would not, would not, would not do this with me. We broke up more times than I can count but we always ended up back together. We even started seeing a therapist but I eventually shut down. I was a woman caught between the child she loved and the man she loved. I couldn't handle it any more. How can a mother sit there and listen to the cold, cruel remarks being made about her child? How is she expected to endure that? She can't. I think that was the beginning of our disconnection. I had always been his best friend. I was the one he talked to about everything and now he couldn't talk to me. I couldn't listen to the hateful things he had to say about the child I loved. I couldn't bear to hear all the ways in which my child was going to be cheated of a father. And each time Trey lined out all the things he refused to do I became a little more discouraged and a little more overwhelmed because it meant I would be fulfilling both my role and his.

The part I regret the most is all the things I did to try and show Trey he could do this, his life wouldn't have to change as dramatically has he was anticipating. I regret it because it meant I sacrificed myself and my health...and Britton. I would stay up until the wee hours of the morning listening to his fearful ramblings instead of getting the sleep I needed. On the weekends I would hang out at smoky sports bars with him so that I wouldn't have to stay at home and sit alone with my pain. He certainly wasn't going to stay home with me. He needed the relief that drinking with friends provided him. I tried to take care of him, protect him from this. It was too much and I paid for it. Throughout my entire pregnancy I had to go for non-stress tests every Tuesday and Thursday morning because Britton wasn't gaining the weight he needed to. The nurses would strap a monitor around my belly and for the next 30 minutes monitor Britton's heart rate and movement. They wanted to ensure that despite is low weight he was still as active as he needed to be.

Trey was so caught up in his stuff--fear, denial, pain--that he couldn't face any of it. He never offered any support. He never attended an appointment. He never bought me a nice little gift. He never acknowledge Britton. I nourished Britton. I blessed Britton. I named Britton. I planned for Britton's arrival. I did it all. Trey never even told his parents. Two months before Britton was born the mother of a friend of ours called Trey's mom at work to let her know Trey was expecting a child. She was tired of watching it all and thought they deserved to know. Every week was a new ultimatum: you're telling them this week or I will. He wouldn't. I'd give him one more week and we'd start all over again...and again...and again.

Sometimes I wonder how I survived this time because it truly was one of the darkest of my life. I can not tell you all the painful conversations I endured with Trey. I can not explain the overwhelming sense of aloneness. I can not begin to count all the tears. I think one of the reasons I did survive was because there were shining moments. I have two beautiful sisters and they went with me to sonogram appointments, planned my shower, and loved me through it. I have a boss who brought ice cream to work and purchased me a copy of What to Expect When You're Expecting. I have a beautiful friend and co-worker (hi Irma!) whose excitement for me was overwhelming. I cherished every bottle of chilled lemonade served over Sonic ice, every chocolate cigar, every cute outfit, every thoughtful gift she bestowed on me. My mother eventually came around and even drove me to Dallas so that I could excitedly walk into a Pottery Barn Kids and choose baby bedding. And my grandmother never said anything more but offered me support through money slipped into my purse, hand made baby blankets, and Saturday afternoons spent on the sewing machine making wonderful creations for my child.

I hated this time but I am glad I stuck it out. Today Trey and Britton have a beautiful relationship. Trey is attentive and patient and loving and everything a child could ask for in a dad. He's pretty much father of the year. Well, I wouldn't go that far. We still have our issues especially when it comes to money. Trey helps with daycare, food, doctor appointments, and medications. Everything else is mine. Birthdays are mine. The Easter Bunny and Santa Claus is mine. Gymnastics is mine. Toys and books are mine. Clothes, shoes, and other important articles of clothing are purchased by either me or Trey's mother, who absolutely adores her grandson and has been a constant source of support since the day she was surprised at work. It's hard, really hard. And some days I hate it. Some days I hate him.

I grieve because I was shamed. I grieve because Trey couldn't offer me the support I wanted and needed. I grieve because Trey couldn't show up for me. I grieve because my pregnancy was more about his shit than our child. I grieve because I didn't take care of myself the way I needed to. I grieve because my pregnancy wasn't the shining moment I had always dreamed it would be. I grieve because I feel robbed of one of the most extraordinary moments of my life. I grieve because I felt so alone, and in many ways still do. I grieve because I tried so damn hard to make Trey happy and it cost me my own happiness. I grieve because the stress and the sadness had a great impact on the life growing in my belly. I grieve because my son didn't get the blessing he so deserved. I grieve because I'm still carrying the hurt.


Blogger Jamie said...

I hope with all my heart that with your honest, vulnerable, sensitive, real words on this page you've put some of this hurt to bed and lightened your load. You are a courageous and brave woman, and I'm sorry you've had to be.

I'm mentally sending you the softest, most beautiful blanket in the world and putting the kettle on, sending you some gentle care after this heartfelt, raw and cleansing post.

4:03 AM  
Anonymous beansprout said...

Incredibly couraageous and powerful post. Being able to give voice to your soft spots, speaking your truth, these are real gifts. Thanks for sharing them.

4:14 AM  
Blogger Lee said...

Ai! When I finished reading your post I sat with my face in my hands for some time. What to say?

I think writing this is good. As beansprout says, it is very courageous and powerful. But I hope it is also a great relief to put words to your pain. And in letting the pain out a bit, may diffuse it, let it blur and soften a little. Ultimately the truth is that the past, however regrettable, is gone. We can only work to make the future as good as it should be.

Thank you for posting this story. I often blanche at long posts but I am glad I read it. I hope you are better for writing it.

5:39 AM  
Anonymous Charmaine said...

Such a sincere and honest post. I hope you feel better and that this 21 Day Challenge is good for your mind and soul.

6:38 AM  
Blogger Left-handed Trees... said...

I have to say that this was one of the most inspiring things I've read in a while. Your candor, your bareness, your "soft spots" are so breathtaking. I am encouraged to be more honest today. I hope you find a way to honor yourself for giving birth to a little boy you are loving so well have earned it.

6:42 AM  
Blogger GreenishLady said...

For a story that comes from such a soft, tender and delicate spot, you have articulated it so powerfully. I hope the telling of it has released some of the hurt, but this is one of those hurts, perhaps, that we carry always. And Britton didn't get what he deserved in his Dad, but he got such a bounty and a gift in the Mum that he has. It shines out of you. This part of your story (and Brittons) is so moving, I feel really touched to have read it. And it makes me so grateful that, although my husband and I have now parted, at the time of my pregnancy, my son's birth, and throughout his childhood - right to the present day, in fact - he was and is such a supportive father to my son and so supportive of me as his mother. Thank you for that. And blessings to you. And peace for your heart.

6:50 AM  
Blogger Deb R said...

I don't know what to say about something so painful except to say that I hope writing it brings you a step closer to releasing some of the pain. {{{Michelle}}}

6:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was so eloquently written. Your courage, your endurance, your faith and your love is powerful.
Thank you for sharing it with us.

7:09 AM  
Blogger gracie said...

Thank you for sharing this raw and honest portrayal of such painful loss.
Blessed are they that mourn...
I read the comments from so many who love you - the comfort is all around.

7:28 AM  
Blogger kelly said...

i just need to say this....jesus - i can't believe you stood through this. i am continually amazed at the the strength, power and resiliance women have. WE ROCK!

i hope that if you haven't already
you can relay this trey. because he needs to hear this first hand.

my mom sometimes rolls her eyes at me, when she is present, if i am telling bryce that i need him to do better or help more. but i have told her. i have allowed too many men in my life to hurt me, and if i need something from my husband, then i will tell him. and i expect the same from him.

as always...i am sitting here stunned at the bare/rawnessof you words and the stories that you share. the fact that you share them with all of us - regardless of
how scared you are to share - you do it. and by this you give each of us courage and strength.

blessing to you miss!

7:29 AM  
Blogger acumamakiki said...

wow michelle. this is the most powerful and open post i've ever read. how tremendously brave you are to share this with us and like the others here have said, this sharing will help you to heal. girlfriend, you've carried a tremendous amount of emotions with you regarding your pregnancy and it speaks to what type of mother you are and will continue to be. i sit here in awe.

7:54 AM  
Blogger snowsparkle said...

naming your grief and sharing it with this caring community seems like a wonderful place to start. i feel your strength and love in every word. i have no words of wisdom... only that i support you as you do the work to make yourself whole and healed. big hugs - snowsparkle

7:58 AM  
Anonymous bella said...

I just feel so sad for what you went through during your pregnancy. Women are very strong and we do rock but this just broke my heart.
I HOPE like the other readers and supporters, that some of your pain and grief is lifted away through writing. And what honesty! You just shed those layers and let it pour out.
That's why I love your writing - it's so pure and full of meaning. I know that writing will bring you to the path of healing.
Some small part of our hearts can never forget - and it does take a lot to surrender certain hurts.
I hope you are in a better place today and I wish that time had been different for you.

8:08 AM  
Blogger carmen said...

Don't griefs about the past, just move forward and take one day at a time. EVERYTHING I believe has a reason behind it. God chose you to deal with this because he knew that you would be a strong one that survived. Past is the past. Grab ahold of you beautiful son and move forward.

8:13 AM  
Blogger Josephine said...

Strong Michelle,

Your writing is a cathartic experience. It is because you are so thourough, but it is also because your voice is overtly and completely feminine. It is beautiful to see how much of a woman you are.

I am sorry to hear of such deep sorrow. And I wish you wrapped in the magical wings of time, that these memories are worn by the days as sharp rocks by water. Smoothed and changed forever.

I felt something different than what you describe in this peice. I feel so proud of you, that you experienced the raw brutality of pregnancy. In it's most animalistic form, abandoned and stigmatized. Millions of women have stood right where you stood throughout time, yet still, the warm blood of life courses through our veins. Each woman has to follow her heart, no matter how difficult and damaging the consequences. You are a ferocious warrior, and you will heal.

My heart bursts with pride for your strength and persevernce in the face of such utter brutality. To me, that is the pinnacle of being alive. To survive because of the sheer power of your life force, and still live to know beauty, and create a masterpiece of love in which your legacy will follow...

8:16 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

Jeesh!! I so wish I could spin back time and make your pregnancy so different. Trey and your family should be ashamed fo themselves!!, I'm so glad you wrote this, I hope you feel healing the more you talk about it. Reading it I was just so sad for you and so mad at your family. I wish you a peacful heart and healing.

8:33 AM  
Blogger M said...

Thank you thank you thank you for sharing such real and intimate feelings with us- I hope it has helped you in some way too. This 21 Day Challenge is going to change you, heal you, I can feel it.

9:41 AM  
Blogger Swirly said...

I first would like to applaud you for sharing this - that is brave. I cannot possibly imagine how difficult this was for you. I can't imagine!! A high school friend of mine recently lost a child, and at one point in a recent conversation she said, "We all have a story," and I believe this is true. We all reach a point in our lives when we go through an experience, a heartache, a darkness, that we then continue to carry with us. My hope for everyone with these stories - myself included - is that the strength and wisdom gained from them goes with us as well, and that we share our stories, as reminders that we are not alone.

10:10 AM  
Blogger melba said...

You draw me in...always, not just with the facts, but with the way you tell your story. Unload. We want to hear you. Keep unloading. I think your blog will set you free. I hope it will. You deserve it. are worthy!

12:23 PM  
Blogger gkgirl said...

i agree
with what swirly said...
we all have a story...
and wow...
that was not one i was expecting really.

it was very brave of you
to share it here and i hope that
it helped to put words to it
and to let it out...

you are strong.
i find it hard to know
what i would have done
had i been in your place...

12:59 PM  
Anonymous Samantha said...

tejI left a comment but it has mysteriously disappeared! Anyway, in case it pops up later I'll just sound redundant but most of all I want to kiss your freckled, pink cheeks and cherish you. That may sound odd but I think it's a visceral, mothering response to the pain and hurt you've voiced here. I held back my tears as you recounted those things that you've endured. I pray that giving voice to this - even if GOD FORBID it hurts someone! or asks that someone own up to their mistakes - gives you strength and healing. I believe this will heal, and that you will learn and grow, that through all these tears you will birth that shining, clear-eyed YOU.

I especially hate that you feel you were robbed of your pregnancy, of the joy and expectation it should have held. I think Josephine's observation is amazing - and that you are truly more remarkable than anyone could ever know. You are worthy of all good things.

2:23 PM  
Blogger dani said...

i am so sad this has happened to you.

i am sure you make up for all those negative things with briton everyday and he is blessed in more ways than you know just simply having you as his mum.

i am a little unsure: are you and trey still together. i thought you were but now i think i may have missed something.

big hug to you michelle

3:29 PM  
Blogger Laini Taylor said...

Oh Michelle, this was so painful to read. It made me want to kick... someone... in the shins. I'm so sorry you didn't have the beautiful pregnancy you deserved, being doted on and getting late-night trips to the 7-11 for icecream or whatever. But I'm glad you have your beautiful boy!

4:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope with all of my heart that this post helps bring you some healing and peace.

We're all holding your hand.

5:43 PM  
Anonymous Nicole said...

Wow. I think I would be really really pissed off about all that. And part of me hopes that, in your grieving, part of you is punch-in-the-gut angry too.

It boggles my mind that this life experience makes you "unfit" for traditional ministry. To me, people like you, who are real and soft and bruised but not broken, are exactly what the church needs. Because there are lots of us out here that can be warmed with that when scripture and fundamentalism leave us cold.

8:28 PM  
Blogger Monica said...

Writing is good for the soul...You are a very courageous woman, and as Dani's comment said, Britton's biggest blessing is to have you as his mommy.

9:30 PM  
Anonymous yolie said...

sometimes you break my heart Michelle. You're heart is so big and so strong.

8:12 AM  
Blogger Sally said...

How unutterably sad is that story. Britton's life will be long and every great day of his and your life will overcome the early times bit by bit. Heal well

Best wishes

1:26 PM  
Blogger Colorsonmymind said...

As I read, my chest started to feel heavy, by the end I felt the load of all this grief.

Then I hoped,
I hoped that this writing, this 21 day challenge would help you cut the tether to this load, this pain, so that your heart could float a little lighter

What you did by holding Trey up, even though you needed the holding, was a great and powerful gift to Britton~ you essentially ensured that he had a father around~you succeeded. You are a warrior, and angel and an amazing mother.

Love hugs and kisses

4:14 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

Your raw honesty has brought me to tears. I can relate to your story. But unlike you I am pure chicken-shit. Cannot bear to share the shame, guilt, fear, hurt and ....

Cannot bear to own it, 14 years later, still can not bear to own it.


6:00 PM  
Blogger Amber said...

Man, oh man. That was so tragic and honest. I salute your grace and your guts. Your little one is blessed to have you as his mommy. I have to believe he was meant for you, as you were for him.


7:48 PM  
Blogger Lee said...

Today (29 April), in our papers, there was an article about, where people can send their secrets for anonymous posting. I had a look, their are some interesting ones there. But what caught my attention was the observation in the article that the process of writing out and posting a secret was cathartic. People felt relieved to do it.

I hope the effort of this post has to some extent, hopefully a large extent, had a similar release for you.

9:44 PM  
Blogger Letha Sandison said...

Michelle, I am so sorry that your pregnancy was not just pure bliss!! This was so painful to read, I just wanted to rescue you from it!

My yoga teacher told me something after my son was born. I was upset because of some complications at his birth and had shared them with her. She said, "children have the experience that they are meant to have. Don't worry about your son, he is fine and he had the beginning that he needed to." It really helped me. Another bit of advice my mother-in-law gave, and she is a child development specialist, she said, "kids are so resilient, they recover from things much more quickly than you do."

I have hung on those two tid bits more than once!

Britton is lucky tohave two parents that love him now, he is going to be great!!

10:22 PM  
Anonymous Adrift At Sea said...


I don't think that Trey realizes what he has given up, or that Britton realizes how lucky he is to have a mother who loves him so much. Thi post is both touches us, as your readers, and honors us, as being worthy of being part of your life, albiet indirectly.


5:33 PM  

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