LTYM Raleigh-Durham

Parenting in a Time of Existential Dread

We held the fifth and final Listen to Your Mother:Raleigh-Durham on Friday. It was a magical evening. Great, responsive audience. Amazing pieces. Lots of emotion and laughs. It was very bittersweet. I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about the final show and this final season, but I need a few more days to unpack it all.  The biggest change for this year’s shows is that there was no requirement to video them. Each city could hire a videographer if they wished, but there would be no possibility of sharing or distributing the videos. As a result, we chose not to video our show.

So here is my piece.  I know that my few posts on my blog this year have been political or a response to the situation in which the USA is in, but I can’t help it.  It took over my LTYM piece this year, and the show overall had a decidedly political tone as readers shared going to their first protest, parenting children of a different race and keeping them safe, helping children cope, etc. I was a little nervous to read the piece and was afraid I would be heckled, even in fairly blue Raleigh.

I guess this is our reality now.  So, here is my final LTYM piece: “Parenting in a Time of Existential Dread.”

***

I’m sitting at my laptop, trying to write my piece for the show. I had planned to write about being a working mom. Well, a working-outside-the-house mom, because as mothers, we all work and work damn hard.

The problem is that I can’t focus on writing about the difficulties of registering for summer camp, and my experience of being a working mom seems trivial.

Because the world is fucked up right now. Do you feel it?  I do. It is the anxiety that gnaws at my gut every day. It is the existential dread when I wake up in the morning and wonder what has happened over night, what tweets have been sent. What new revelations have come to light.

And it bleeds into everything. My job is in jeopardy. My organization is funded by the government to help manufacturers stay competitive, profitable and most importantly, in business. And POTUS wants to cut us.

We are in crisis mode, and I’m also trying to hire for my team. Imagine how fun it is to tell candidates, “oh, by the way, the grant you will be supporting has been targeted to be obliterated. Don’t you want to come work with us?”

Yeah, that goes over well.

And then we come home and listen to the news, dumbfounded at the amount of corruption and the horror story unfolding that is even more horrible than the horror story we thought we had already.

And my son hears all this.  He’s 7. He’s very black and white in his view of the world. You either like or hate someone. So simple. He asks us, “Do you wish someone would hurt the president?” and exclaims, “I hate him!” We have to answer those questions, address his feelings to make sure he knows that we don’t wish harm on anyone. We have to explain that it is one thing not to like a person and another to want them to come to some sort of harm.

He’s only 7, and he is already more involved in politics than I was at his age.  Before the election, a classmate told him that if Trump didn’t win, Mexicans were going to take our house from us. This is also the same classmate that terrified him by telling him that those damn clowns were all around, so yeah, I’m a big fan of hers.

On Election Day, he sighed, “I think Trump is going to win.” When he woke up the next day, I had to tell him he was right. He replied, resigned, “I knew it.” We had to have the same conversation about the Atlanta Falcons and the Super Bowl. I’m beginning to worry that he believes he can’t trust the positions his family holds because they never come true.

We listen to the news in the car, and he asked exasperatedly, “Russia! Why is it always about Russia?”

Why indeed.

These are difficult conversations to have. I can’t even have these conversations with family members who are several times his age.  How can I explain it to him?

On quiet news days, I want to exhale and think that it will all be OK.  Maybe we’re just hyper aware of everything in 2017 thanks to social media and the Internet.  On other days, I feel like that poor guy in Munch’s painting, screaming into the void.

On those days, I want to lock all the doors, grab my son and never leave.  Maybe those preppers have the right idea.

And I want to apologize to him.  What kind of world are we making for him? What is he growing up in? Will there be a world for him to grow up in?

I always dismissed the Cold War-era fatalism as quaint and something that could never happen again. We know better.  Instead, here we are again.

My son is still rather innocent. We’ve sheltered him more than we should probably. In his world, the Lego cops always catch the Lego bad guys. He has been watching Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter recently, and to him, the president, Voldemort and Sauron are the same things.

The difference is that Voldemort and Sauron are fictional characters. The good guys win.

I don’t know how to explain to him that in the real world, that doesn’t always happen.

#MicroblogMondays: Snow Day

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We have a snow day today, that rare event in the South.  I wouldn’t be surprised if we have another tomorrow since we had more sleet than snow.  It wasn’t the best snow event.  The models had originally forecasted us to have at least 5 inches of snow, but as the event unfolded the dreaded warm nose infiltrated, and we ended up with sleet and maybe 1/2 inch to 1 inch of snow on Saturday.  At least it is pretty.  We had something similar happen last year and we ended up with freezing rain and power outages, so this is a definite improvement even though it isn’t fun to play in.  We love snow, so we hope this isn’t our only winter weather event of the season.   I know, I know. If we love snow that much, we should move to a more receptive climate.

 

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***

Today I also posted the audition information for our 5th and final Listen to Your Mother:Raleigh-Durham show. It is bittersweet. I know we will have another wonderful show, and we will meet amazing people sharing their stories, but it makes me sad it is our final show under this name.  I do like the symmetry of our last year being our 5th year, though.

So I implore you, if there is a show near you, please consider submitting or auditioning.  It is a magical experience, and I have been honored to be part of it. You can find a list of participating cities and submission/audition info here.

Addendum

Thank you all for your comments on “Plans in Pencil.”  I’ve been thinking about what to do with those embryos a lot lately and along with it has come the return of the old anger and bitterness, some of which you can see in both the piece I wrote for Listen to Your Mother and the recent post on grief.

When I returned to work after the LTYM show,  I found a curious email in my work inbox. It was from a friend of someone who had attended the show, and she asked about adopting our embryos because they are undergoing infertility as well. I guess her friend had told her about my piece and my mention of our embryos, but it appeared the gist of the piece had not been conveyed.

The writer’s pain was obvious in her email. Part of me was floored that she had emailed me, a complete stranger, about our embryos and she had to search a bit to find my email.

Seeing this email two days after the show, I could not respond. I didn’t know how to respond. I was exhausted both physically and emotionally and I had no words other than, “no, you may not have them.”

I still haven’t responded, and that’s cruel of me. I know how she feels. I know how desperate she must feel to email a stranger. I need to respond, but what do I say?  Is it possible to let her down gently? Maybe I am dreading her counter reply of asking me why I can’t donate my embryos to her if I’m not going to use them and accusing me of being selfish.  Are we being selfish by keeping them frozen and neither donating them to research nor placing them for adoption?

Many decisions are selfish, though. Our decision to use surrogacy to have a biological child is often deemed selfish (at least in the media and comment sections). Someone else’s decision to adopt could be selfish depending on motivations. A relative’s decision to have three children could be interpreted as selfish by someone concerned about the impact on the environment and overcrowding.

Sometimes in the realm of infertility, it seems you are always making someone unhappy.

Plans in Pencil

This was the post I read for the 2016 Listen to Your Mother: Raleigh-Durham show last week.  Can’t believe the show is over already!

Last week on the way home from school, my son, my sweet 6-year-old, my baby told me he had a girlfriend.  This girlfriend is an older woman, having turned 8.

He broke this news to me by telling me that he and this girl, Rose, were going to get married (what????), they would work as a veterinarian (her) and a doctor (him), and that Rose was afraid of having babies cut out of her. He then asked me if he had been cut out of me.

Deep breaths.

I had no labor and delivery with him myself, vaginal or otherwise.  My son was the result of gestational surrogacy. I was able to sit back and observe calmly while our surrogate delivered him. If you believe that sentence, well, I have a few other things I can sell you.

It was time. It was time to have the talk with him about how he came to be.  We hadn’t intended on keeping it a secret – absolutely not at all – but sometimes there isn’t a simple opening or Hallmark card for this type of conversation.  We had blown it up in our minds to take on epic qualities; how would he react?

Later that evening, we brought up the topic again. I gently told him – trying to use simple language – that he had not been in my belly because it didn’t work and that another, wonderful woman had carried him for us. We waited for his reaction.

“Oh, OK, “ he replied. “Can I have ice cream now?”

I asked him how he felt about this information.  He placed his still baby-soft hand on my stomach. “Mommy, are you still broken?”

Broken.  Yes, I am still broken. My reproductive organs don’t work and never will. My son is our miracle child, made possible by the kindness of a stranger who carried him.

I never wanted only one child. I grew up as an only child. I didn’t have a miserable childhood, but I felt lonely, and I was envious of my friends with siblings. Maybe I would have been more socially competent with a sibling. Maybe I wouldn’t feel so alone in the world. Maybe I would be a different person. The possibilities of what might have been are endless.

While I have one child, I also have five frozen siblings for him. Siblings isn’t quite the correct word.  We have five frozen embryos, five bits of potential. In the infertility community, we call them frosties, or my personal favorite, “totsicles.” It is amazing to have any embryos to freeze, and I have five after a horrible IVF cycle in which it seemed I’d be fortunate to create any embryos. These are embryos created from barely 31-year-old me and gave us our son. Our only son.

I’m very close to 39 now.

We receive the bill for cryopreservation of our embryos annually. We don’t talk about it but pay it automatically every year. Our other options are to destroy them, to donate or adopt them out to other families or to allow them to be used for research. We can’t do any of that. Yet.

We always wanted more than one child, but circumstances made that difficult.  Having a second child would require a major financial outlay as well as significant changes in our lives. Are we too old for that? Are we too old for bottles and nightly feedings? For daycare costs? For potty training? For all the energy and money infancy and toddlerhood require?  And what about my career and increasing responsibility? What about the child we already have and his needs, his future?

I’d like to say we could swing it, but I FEEL tired. I AM tired. We are in a groove, and our sweet boy is more independent every day.

We know the answer, but we keep kicking the can further down the road.

When I let myself think about it, I get angry. I feel like I was robbed of choices when it came to family building and the choices we did have were difficult and came with heavy implications.  There is a part of me that still simmers with resentment and anger: WHY US? WHY did this have to be our reality?

Very few of us realize the lives we hoped to have. Regardless of what our dreams were, reality slaps us in the face.  We are obligated nothing, and our notion of control is an illusion. I need to bottle my resentment and anger, my caustic bitterness, and put it away.  Yes, we were dealt a shitty hand reproductively, but what can you do? We did what we could. We rolled the dice and won once. Nothing guarantees we would win again.

I have one son, and he is wonderful. He is sweet, bright, energetic, and sentimental. He is exhausting, argumentative, and stubborn. He is everything I wished and hoped for and so much more.

Instead of lingering on what I can’t change, I need to focus on what I do have. My son tells me he and his future wife plan to name my future grandchild “Sprinkle”. I smile. It’s nice to have plans, but I have learned it is wise to plan in pencil.

Listen to Your Mother 2016!

Thrilled to announce that Marty and I will again be bringing Listen to Your Mother to the Raleigh-Durham area in 2016!  That show will be our 4th, and this year, Listen to Your Mother expands to 41 cities, including one in Canada!

Marty and I met for coffee last week to start planning, and we’re going to do a few things differently for the 4th year.  Shake things up a bit.  It will be fun!

Here’s the official announcement for 2016.

If you are in NC, information about the submission process will come out in January.  If you are outside NC, please look and see if there is a show close to you.  It’s been amazing being part of Listen to Your Mother, and I cannot recommend it enough.

#MicroblogMondays: Listen to Your Mother

  

It is hard to believe, but this is show week for Listen to Your Mother: Raleigh-Durham. We have tech rehearsal on Wednesday and our shows are Thursday and Friday.

This is our third year producing it, and each year the time before the show seems to go faster and faster. I swear it seems like we were accepting submissions and scheduling auditions only yesterday.

We have a great cast and a diverse, incredibly moving set of essays. Watching the cast come together and bond is always one of my favorite parts of this process.  I talk a lot about what an honor it is to facilitate these wonderful women’s access to a stage and audience to share their stories, but it truly is. These are ordinary women, ordinary in the way we all are, but with stories to share, stories we all have.

I always find myself singing. “Another Op’nin’, Another Show'” this time of year. Listen to Your Mother isn’t exactly a show like what is meant in the song, but it feels right.

So cross your fingers and send us good wishes later this week. Our Thursday show is sold our and Friday close to it. And another Listen to Your Mother year will come to a close.

Then out o’ the hat it’s that big first night
The overture is about to start
You cross your fingers and hold your heart,
It’s curtain time and away we go!
Another op’nin’,
Just another Op’nin of another show

Submissions Open for 2015 Listen to Your Mother: Raleigh-Durham

It begins!

I am pleased to announce that Marty and I are now accepting submissions for the 2015 Listen to Your Mother: Raleigh-Durham show! I know you have stories to share, and I’d love to hear them all. Please consider submitting or passing along the information to your book clubs, neighborhood groups, church groups and school pages or lists.  We are looking for diverse voices to share their stories, and remember you do not need to be a mother or a woman to submit.  The submission deadline is January 31, 2015. You can find more information here, and if you’re curious about what the show is about, check out the videos from the 2014 show.

If you are outside of NC, I encourage you to find a city close to you and submit.  There are shows in 39 cities this year.  I was delighted that Arch Mama was in the St. Louis show last year, and I’d love for you to participate!