I've been a mom for twenty-six years.
I was a single mom first at the age of twenty, intent to do everything backwards, it seems. I met my husband when my daughter was five, and became a married mom, and a step-mom to a second delightful girl, two years younger to the day than my daughter. They were fast buddies, and eventually, when my husband adopted my daughter, truly became the sisters they were from the moment they first met.
My husband and I each had a child from prior relationships, so when I turned thirty we got to work *practicing* with every arrogant assumption that we would be fruitful together. Two years passed without a pregnancy, we'd moved and I became a stay-at-home mom for the first time, and I got a puppy. A furry little replacement baby until the Universe decided it was time for the human variety.
It would take six years, during which I was diagnosed with PCOS and endometriosis, suffered one loss, two surgeries, a multitude of disappointments, was one ovary down, and on my way to a likely hysterectomy if I didn't find an alternative to the conventional INfertility path. The path that focused on IMpossible, and UNlikely, and ADVANCED age, and FAILURE. The path that, the temperature charting and obsessing of which, caused untold stress, weight-gain and wrinkles. I hate wrinkles, dammit! And it contributed to adrenal fatigue and chronic acidosis, and babies won't grow in an acidic environment.
And so, I sought another path. A path of healing, a path of spirituality, a path of empowering myself to follow my instincts and use my intuition to take control of my wellness and my FERTILITY; a path that would lead the little spirit I wasn't ready for before, to finally come to be my amazing, bright, imaginative now ten-year-old son. I've come to understand that the Universe had known better. There had been so much more I needed to know before I was ready to mother my son. He was born when our daughters were sixteen and fourteen, and everything I thought I knew about being their mom/step-mom, I had to relearn when it came to my son.
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And actually there is something missing, and has been for over ten years...an income stream. Not that I would trade a moment of the last ten years of being *just* a stay at home mom to the delightful, imaginative, remarkable boy it took six long years to brew, but I've definitely missed working and contributing a paycheck to our household--financial independence, choices, etc. It's also put a tremendous amount of pressure on my poor husband. It's miraculous, in fact, that despite two job losses in the last seven years, he's managed to keep us going all this time, though it hasn't been without great cost.
What a bum I've been!
There goes that Momma-guilt machine again, dammit!
We moms seem to be damned if we do and damned if we don't. The incessant demands of the every-day life of the Stay At Home Mom leave us weary; fulfilled to a degree, but in ways that are so far removed from professional, we're sometimes left feeling broken and like the huge holes in our resumes have closed any portal to job fulfillment that may have once been open. This leaves many of us paralyzed with fear that prevents any attempt to enter the workforce ever again.
I've been reminded recently of all that we've overcome and all the *work* I have done over the last sixteen years, and things have happened since my last post to compel me to share them, and to create a business out of it, resume gap and Wage Gap be-damned!
I haven't been a businesswoman since we closed our restaurant in 2001, and obviously that didn't exactly leave me feeling like I was a successful one. I haven't been much of anything besides a tired, Warrior Mom who managed to heal her own infertility naturally, and then rescued her infant son from a probable future of profound neurological deficit, and then spent the next years of his life fixing the damage he'd incurred and discovering how in the world to help him become the best version of himself he can possibly be.
Nah, I haven't done a damn thing.
I couldn't have done any of it without the undying support and faith from my husband. Sometimes he was just holding on tight and going along for the ride, but I certainly wouldn't be here without him. It was just Father's Day and his birthday was yesterday, so I feel compelled to celebrate him--though it isn't nearly enough. He took our son to the movies this weekend to allow me to make progress on the launch of my new program, GANE Possible: RECLAIM Your Fertility. This will hopefully allow me to pass along everything I've learned in the last sixteen years and truly make a difference in our lives, by making a profound difference in the lives of others, and perhaps even someday in the world.
I must also thank Alissa Sheftic of Sheftic Communications & Imagery. She not only did a beautiful job editing the great picture my husband (he was just learning the ins and outs of the new professional camera he'd procured) took of me around midnight in our dimly lit kitchen, but she spent a good chuck of time and effort to help me align my efforts, and to better develop my branding. I've still got a ways to go and look forward to more assistance from her, but this evolution couldn't have happened without her amazingly wise and capable advice. Anyone with similar goals would benefit fantastically from employing the services of her new company.
And finally, through the amazing coaching and instruction of Nicola Bird of JigsawBox, I was able to finally recognize her amazing education portal tool as the answer it is to the question, HOW can I possibly accomplish what I hoped to accomplish in 2013, beyond simply publishing a book that you read (maybe) and set aside, and to do it now?
It's all been part of the process of self-discovery, of learning who I am, who I hope to become, and how I hope to change the world, or at least my small piece of it, for the better. I believe that's what 2013 is all about: not accepting the status quo, using your innate gifts to better your own life by bettering the lives of others, and empowering yourself to build the future you desire. Whether or not you believe the Wage Gap is a misrepresentation, as most media buzz words are, it doesn't matter if you put yourself in the driver's seat.
One thing I've learned so far this year, without a doubt...absolutely anything is POSSIBLE...if you only believe it, reach out, take action, and just do it!
I can still see their black silhouettes--bats soared overhead against the dark of the night sky. The yard beyond was illuminated by a big farm light that buzzed on a pole, though it wasn’t much of a farm anymore. Pieces had been sold off over the years to encroaching industry; plastics companies that left mounds and mounds of synthetic scraps of all shapes and colors. Bits and pieces my brother and I would collect to play with as money or food or just to inspect and toss at the fence.
We played for endless hours at my grandparent’s house. We ate small, firm green pears until our bellies ached and we climbed the graceful, swaying willow tree, with the beckoning low branches that met at its base, stretching up like a welcome hug. Except for the bats, this was the place I felt safest. It was the place I felt most loved and where all our family came to gather. Cousins, aunts, uncles and all of us, around big lace-covered tables laden with my grandmother’s delicious, aromatic cooking and colored by the loot from my grandfather’s garden.
Mornings after I slept in the room that had been my mother’s, we woke to the smell of breakfast cooking. Thin, almost rubbery pancakes were plentiful to roll around fat sausage links and dip into sticky maple syrup that dripped down my chin. We drank sugary, milky children’s tea from my grandmother’s dainty porcelain cups, dotted with exquisite painted violets. I remember many summer afternoons when my grandfather and I walked in his garden; his bare, hairless knees peeked out from his shorts as a corduroy-slippered foot pressed a pitchfork into the loamy soil, turning it to reveal clumps of sweet, round new potatoes. It was my job to fish them from the earth and carry them enfolded in my shirt to my grandmother who scrubbed them and later served them doused in salty, buttery goodness. My grandfather’s large, firm finger disappeared into the soil alongside a fat carrot that would be left submerged until it matched or exceeded in girth and length. He handed me round, firm but yielding tomatoes, still warm from the sun. I bit into them like apples, and their juices dripped down in scarlet rivers off my filthy elbow. I was covered in dirt, pink cheeked and tow headed and nothing mattered but the bees and the bounty.
I remember my grandfather’s fondness for birds—budgies—I later learned this was an English thing when I was finally able to visit my maternal grandparents’ homeland, after they both were gone. He always kept bird feeders among the forsythias in view of the front picture window, and was proud of the many varieties he attracted; cardinals, my favorite, orioles, canaries, his favorite, gold finches and every other kind and color imaginable. A firm believer in hard work and a daily nap, he would lie back on the sofa, smoke his pipe and watch the birds. Once all the smoke-rings had wasped away and the scent of the blue-tinned, apple wood tobacco had faded, he would close his eyes in the stillness, only the ticking clock and his snores disturbed the cool silence I treasured.
Perhaps that’s why bluebirds came to tell me after six long years that my son would finally be; perhaps my grandfather sent them. Two days in a row, two bluebirds came to the feeder outside my kitchen window. I knew they were a sign; an omen that everything would be OK. We had just closed our restaurant and financially our future was very uncertain. There was the work trip to Britain my husband wouldn’t have been allowed to embark on without me, but otherwise there was only uncertainty: temperature charting, endless research on endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome, chiropractic visits, drastic dietary adjustments, yoga, chakra balancing, progesterone cream, cleansing and fistfuls of supplements filled my days when our teenage daughters were in school. Failure and fear filled my thoughts, until I saw those bluebirds and experienced the lush, colorful spring of London. Suddenly my chronically acidic pH was perfectly in balance, and hope was my friend. This was April. And by June, I would have cause to take a pregnancy test again; prayerful that this time would turn out better than the loss we experienced two years before.
The bluebirds weren’t the only sign my grandfather sent. When I finally gave birth to the boy I’d waited so very long to hold, my grandfather, dead at 100 years of age just the year before, came to me in a deeply vivid, drug-induced dream. Not the bent over, feeble, occasionally sound minded, but impish and twinkle-eyed nonetheless grandfather, but the Grandpa of my youth. The one who sported Elvis Costello glasses, a dapper seer-sucker suit and a straw hat; all of his five-foot-four-inch frame with its great, strong farm hands the size of a man’s over six feet tall, with their “educated thumbs” that could crack walnuts and put every man in our family on his knees during the required, humbling handshake greeting.
Perhaps it was merely a memory of when I was not yet two and my baby brother was born; the hospital halls were lined with backless, vinyl, mustard-toned benches, and the hushed nurses hurried along in their skirts, white hosiery and clunky white shoes, not the scrubs and white Birkenstocks worn by my actual nurses. Someone else was with him. Man or woman, I’ll never know, because my husband woke me, thinking I was having a nightmare. But I wasn’t. I was deliriously happy to see the Grandpa of my youth, so very proud to show him my baby boy and grateful for the chance to thank him for the bluebirds.
Photo courtesy of: Sandysphotos2009 (20100415_86 Uploaded by Snowmanradio) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
I was sitting in my neighbor's kitchen having coffee this morning, looking out over her spectacular view of the San Diego coast, and wishing we didn't live on the other side of the street. We were chatting about the things neighbors chat about, and I told her about my recent daily writing expedition for BlogHer's NaBloPoMo. And lo and behold, today's writing prompt asks us "Would you rather have more blog readers or more blog comments?" This is timely for me because I was lamenting that the blog I started with one measly entry back in 2006 not only fails to define me now, but I fear it also fails to attract readers. Being gluten free defined me then, because I allowed it to define me. All these years later, however, being gluten free represents only one very small facet of my life, my experience, and what I feel I can contribute to the Blogosphere.
Point in fact: I finally had the chance yesterday to visit and peruse Melissa Ford's blog, "Stirrup Queens." Before visiting, I couldn't imagine what a blog of that title was about. I assumed she was an expert of all things horsey; that perhaps she road horses, showed horses, owned a barn, shoveled shit in a barn, heck, maybe she even did her writing in her barn. I've met some horsey people from my daughter's years of taking riding lessons, and am familiar with the drama that tends to go on in barns. I thought it could be an entertaining way to pass the afternoon, and it could prove to be good research. Well you could have knocked me over with a flake of hay when I discovered that the stirrups to which she was referring were the ones we women put our heels into when a doctor type is having a look...er, down there!
It turns out that Stirrup Queens is a meticulous blog, into which Melissa has put an incredible amount of volunteer work. It connects women who are dealing with or have dealt with infertility (IF), whatever the outcome. Oh, to have had access to this fifteen years ago, but it still very much resonated with me because it isn’t something you forget or ever get over. Within her blog are sub-blogs that help connect those with one diagnosis vs. another who, through whatever means, achieved pregnancy but without a baby at the end (me), those who have adopted, and those who were blessed to give birth to a baby or babies at the end of it all (also me, very fortunately so). Through Melissa's blog, I came upon "Certainly Not Cool Enough To Blog," written by a woman who identifies herself only as "msfitzita," whose journey through infertility has come to an unfruitful end, with which she is trying to make peace. She writes so eloquently about being a "childless mother," and being in "perpetual mourning," and her feelings are so raw and palpable; she puts into words almost everything I've ever felt about being a mother, trying to be a mother again, being a mother whose monumental efforts end in loss, and even being a mother who can't believe some days how blessed I am to have become one again. I can't know how it feels to be a mother who can't touch, sing to, mold, treasure, and even fight with her children, except through msfitzita's beautifully penned words, and others like her.
It's been tossing about in my mind for some time, but it is partly through reading her blog that I understood that being a mother is the very essence of who I am, and permeates every facet of who I became the moment I realized I was pregnant with my daughter at only twenty years old and alone; as well, through the struggles and riches of being a step-mom. If I possess an ounce of the power to help and connect others as these women do, I would rather have more readers, whether or not they ever post a comment. I don't think I can do that with the Gluten-Free Gratefully name I chose for my blog so many years ago. The only people who are likely to read it now are those who are looking specifically for gluten-free answers, recipes and advice, of which there are probably thousands out there now. Back then there weren't so many, and if I hadn't been so mired in our daily dietary and behavioral struggles, and trying to survive from one day to the next, like Melissa I might now be recognized as a pioneer in that community.
And here's another thing...I didn't follow the normal, ‘conventional medicine’ path to have my son. I started out that way, but my path veered off in a very different direction, when I overcame my polycystic ovarian syndrome and endometriosis through natural, dietary and holistic means. This is also something about which I feel I can share and contribute. It is also the original vision I had for my wannabe website, "GlutenNaziMom;" yet another example of the ideas being right there, but the execution hovering just out of reach due to my self-diagnosed ADD ways. Not only am I all over the place in my daily life, I'm pretty much all over the place on the internet, too. So in this particular case, if you are reading, I would appreciate your comments with any pointers in the right direction. Speaking of which, I need to catch up on that Writing for the Internet online course I'm taking so I can figure out how to put it all together into one place.
Author|Award-Winning Essayist|Freelance CommercialWriter|GANE
Kim was selected as a BlogHer '13 Voices of the Year Honoree in the Op Ed category for this post, an excerpt of which has been adapted for inclusion in the book, 51%: Women and the Future of Politics, to be released late 2014. Visit her Wordpress About page to see her CV.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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