Archive for January 16, 2008

Barriers to Progress

Yesterday at my physical therapy appointment, I was being evaluated for an injury I incurred a week ago by doing something which should not have harmed me in any way. Naturally. Having already completed five or six weeks of physical therapy for general pregnancy complications, it was pretty much old hat. But this time around, as she was diligently recording my measurements, I noticed something on the form that had previously passed me by. It read:

“Barriers to progress: 15.5 weeks gestation”

It struck me as odd because I’ve always thought of my pregnancy as progress, especially after those really awful awesome 17 months of infertility. When we started out on this journey, it was with the mindset that becoming parents would lead us to being better people – kinder, more patient, more compassionate people. A lot of things happened between then and now, things that may or may not have assisted us in reaching those goals, so I’m not really sure where we’re at right now. It got me thinking – in a very non-Carrie Bradshaw way – that I have a lot of barriers to my progress and I don’t really think my gestation is one of them. I’m not really one for New Year’s Resolutions, because they inevitably are broken and hang around for much too long taunting and mocking me. But if I were to make a resolution this year (and let’s be clear, this is NOT a resolution), it might be to tear down those barriers so I can move forward.

This is easier said than done, of course. The barriers are pretty deeply entrenched. My hopes that having a child would make me less codependent and more centered and better able to draw boundaries seem almost out of reach at this point. As I am putting together calendars and planning for the upcoming year and answering question after question about my maternity leave, I’ve been completely wracked with anxiety and negative thoughts and paranoid self-consciousness. The hard part is that there are people who are watching and judging and making that known, so that doesn’t really help. I feel trapped by all the expectations around me. My growing bump seems like a big sign to the world, “I am unreliable. I will let you down. I will not put you first.” I guess healthy, well-adjusted people learn to live with this, as it does seem to be part and parcel of the human condition. I don’t think there’s any question I’m not one of those healthy, well-adjusted people.

Elsewhere in my personal life, there is a huge roadblock. I have mentally ill parents on both sides (mine and Mr. K’s), and while I’ve learned to deal with the issues on my side in a way that I think is pretty sustainable I can’t make any sort of headway with the ones on Mr. K’s side. That person has multiple diagnoses, including but perhaps not limited to: narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and depression. They are also awaiting trial on felony charges for crimes involving an unloaded fire arm. I have never been a huge fan of this person, but we got along well enough until the crime part. In fact, at the time I was working damn hard to make the situation better. To the best of my knowledge, these diagnoses would not excuse their actions on the grounds of mental incompetence. I’ve been told that their inability to admit that they are in any way responsible for the events surrounding the crime (not to mention the crime itself) is symptomatic of their personality disorders. Okay. I can intellectually handle that. It doesn’t excuse the treatment that the rest of the family has endured from them, but it makes a certain sort of sense.

So, given that this person has proven incapable of accepting their actions, let alone the subsequent consequences, and possesses a medically diagnosed mental illness which prevents them from doing so, and every instinct and gut reaction tells me that this person is not safe for me to be around physically, emotionally or otherwise… I am now to pretend that none of this matters and share my defenseless, innocent child with them? Because we’re related? Because they have a right to their grandchild? Hmm. Mama doesn’t think so. In fact, the rage and protective instinct that Mama experiences in this person’s presence makes it a close call on escaping heated emotional outbursts and perhaps even physical violence every time we are forced to interact. I wasn’t happy with the relationship before I got pregnant – I was furious that the people that I care about had been hurt so deeply. But the existence of my baby has completely changed my tolerance level.

Of course, it’s not that simple. The other one of Mr. K’s parents is severely disabled, practically bed ridden. While I have my own issues with that person based on their actions and choices, I could certainly agree to disagree with them and have a somewhat satisfying relationship involving myself and my offspring and this grandparent. But the situation that this person has created means that there is no relationship possible that does not involve their spouse, and I think I was pretty clear on how I feel about that. Naturally, given that these are not my parents and I am and probably always will be the outsider no matter what I do, there is a certain amount of pressure to just give in and play nice and pretend that everything is fine. Very easy to say that I am the person making this difficult and quite possibly the correct explanation. Maybe I am being hormonal and unreasonable and unforgiving. In fact, I will hand you the unforgiving for free. But I wasn’t raised in that household and I don’t have their neat little trick of pretending that it’s all okay. I wish to God I did. Life would be so much easier. Unfortunately, being able to see what is not fine and finding something to do about it is how I have survived this far and I’m not about to change that. So I’m stuck. There isn’t anything else I can do in this situation except take care of myself and take care of my baby and try to be as honest with Mr. K as I can be. Mr. K wants harmony, and I’ll be damned if I know how to find it here.

And finally, the least fun barrier of all. After being infertile (is that the right way to say it? What am I now, since I’m clearly fertile? Treated?) and the events surrounding the situation above, and trying to work and make art and keep our world spinning round, I am tired and exhausted and hurt. I haven’t really healed from those things, although I’ve started to try. I’ve shut down my heart, closed it off to try to protect it. It’s hard to enjoy anything that way. Hard to relax. Hard to connect with people. Hard to get excited about being pregnant when the dangers of that are so very clear. Not that these things don’t happen in flashes, when I’m distracted or particularly well-rested or what have you. But I remember enjoying things. I remember getting excited about stuff. Maybe this is what people are talking about when they reminisce about college or high school or childhood. Feeling unburdened and light and free. I wasn’t really any of those things as a child, really. It took a fair amount of therapy to get me anywhere close. But apparently I was close enough to be able to measure the distance now.

I think what is missing is trust. I don’t trust most people any more. I don’t trust most situations. I don’t really trust that everything is going to be okay in the end. This is somehow almost entirely separate from hope, mysteriously. I still have a tough cord of faith and hope running through me, that pulls and twangs just like my round ligaments as my bump grows bigger. And it hurts because I’ve realized that it will still be okay in the end even if every single thing gets destroyed. Even if pain goes beyond endurance. Even if every foundation is shaken and cracked. I haven’t learned how to be happy about this, yet. I’ve just learned to duck and cover and prepare for the worst.

So really, what is progress?

Being fearless.

I’m courageous enough to keep fighting, to keep crawling along with my face in the dirt. But to stand up and face whatever comes…. not yet.

I’m still hiding behind my barriers.

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