Thanksgiving can be a tough holiday. It is fairly easy to celebrate if everything is going relatively well in your life -- if you have the family you desire, you haven't recently lost a loved one, you have a home and a job and a life that you're feeling pretty darn good about.
But if you're in the middle of turmoil, if you're experiencing loss of any kind -- loss of a spouse, loss of a father or mother, loss of a job, loss of a relationship, loss of a pregnancy, loss of a child, loss of a dream you've worked so hard to achieve -- it can be extraordinarily difficult to face the onslaught of thankfulness, the onslaught of "at leasts" that come to your door.
At least you have your health.
At least you have your children.
At least you have your husband/wife/partner.
At least you have your job.
At least you have a warm place to live and a belly full of food every day.
These "at leasts" are important, for sure, because not everyone has those, but it can feel like a slap in the face to be dealing with your own personal tragedy and have thankfulness foisted upon you. I feel that there's room at the Thanksgiving table for the traditional acknowledging what you have, but also for acknowledging your losses. They seem magnified at times of gratitude. It is so important to be given space to reflect not only on what you are so fortunate to have, whatever that may be, but to recognize that these things exist IN TANDEM with the empty holes, the things that on a good day can make you feel sad and on a bad day can push you down into a pit of despair.
It's a balance. You cannot have happiness without sadness, which is one of my favorite parts of the movie Insi.de Out. It would be disingenuous to gloss over all the losses that make you the person you are. At the same time, having something positive to hang on to can keep you from mouldering down in that pit of despair forever.
But in order to heal, you pretty much need to acknowledge that pit. You need to spend at least a little time reflecting on the deep hole of sadness, the feelings of emptiness, in order to get back up into the light. You can't have the light without the dark.
I have been in that pit, more than once. I have felt hopelessness, and emptiness, and a feeling that nothing would ever be right or good again. And when you are dropped in that pit, there's nothing that can really convince you that you shouldn't just stay a little longer, lie on the rotted-leaf-strewn floor, and just watch all the light and happiness pass you by through the pinprick of light at the top of your pit.
There is light at the top of the pit, though, and one day it will seem possible to crawl out. Crawling out requires two things.
The first is acknowledging the things that put you in that pit. For me:
It was harder than I ever imagined to try to get pregnant.
I only got pregnant twice and once was in the wrong spot and the other was a devastating miscarriage.
Even an egg donor whose every cycle before me worked, DID NOT work for me.
Even switching to a new clinic and trying donor sperm, from a donor who also had many pregnancies result from his contribution, DID NOT work for me.
My uterus kept me from transferring my frozen embryos.
My uterus is probably the culprit after all...which means I am probably the ultimate reason for our IVF failure.
I don't want to go through all that any more, and it's really not good for my health (physically or mentally) to put myself back into that cycle of failure and pain, so....
...I will never, ever be pregnant again.
And now I have homeless embryos to contend with.
On the other side of the pit are all the reasons to crawl out, all the positives to be thankful for:
I have an amazing husband who loves me so completely that I'm not quite sure I deserve it.
We have gone through this journey together, and come out of it knowing we can tackle anything life decides to throw at us (but would appreciate less throwing, please).
We are going to be parents -- it may take longer than we hope, but adoption will bring us our Mystery Baby and we will have the joy we've been striving for for so long.
I have an amazing counselor who helps me muddle through all the various feels that come with all these experiences and decisions.
I have a wonderful family who supports us and is there for us in good times and in sad.
I have incredible friends who are there when I need to cry, but also there when it's time to celebrate our impending joy.
I have the unbelievable support of an online community that completely gets the cycle of happiness and loss, emptiness and hope.
I have a job I love and amazing support in my administration (both building and district) and my coworkers as we work through our shifting family dynamics.
We have options for our embryos that we feel comfortable and at peace with.
We have options ahead of us to help us put broken pieces together and make sense of all we've been through, so that we can move forward and be the best family we can for Mystery Baby.
We will be parents sooner than later.
We WILL be parents.
The countdown has begun.
Looking at the two sides, I sure do have a lot to be thankful for. But I also have a lot of loss to reflect on. They both have a place today. I am breathless and sweaty, sitting on the lip of my pit. I could fall back in again, but I have all these handholds that can help me get back out.
And I am so, so thankful for that.
I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving, wherever you are. I hope that whether you're deep in your pit, climbing out, or reflecting on what a crazy journey that whole adventure was from the surface, that you have the space to feel both your joys and your losses today. That no one forces you to feel thankful if you're not in the right place for it.
May every day bring you more to be thankful for.