Monday, 7 January 2013
What Does God Have to Do With This IF Hell? Pt 1
There's a "God" question keeps haunting me. A pesky, annoying little thought that circles my brain in my quietest moments. Kind of like a song that gets stuck in your head, but it's been hanging around for a years now in a few different variations.
A lot of times it shows up as "Why me?" or on my more hormonal days "What the F*$%, universe?", one way or another though, it somehow boils down to "What does God have to do with this IF hell we are experiencing?"
Thinking about this is kind of tiresome. And sometimes boring. I wish I could just forget it and move on with things. The easy answers in my mind are "everything" or "nothing". And, for the biggest portion of my life, I tried on the "nothing" shoe. I wore it around, trying to live a good and productive life, but it never quite fit me right.
Four years ago, I was granted a year long leave of absence from my career. One of the things I wanted to do was to with my time, was to try on the other shoe. I wanted to learn a little more about religion and spirituality, if nothing more than as a neat social experiment where I got to understand some of my fellow humans a bit better. I felt like this "God thing" is a big deal, possibly having implications beyond this life. I wanted to figure out what I believed, one way or another. A big part of me wanted to read a few things, decide it was all bunk and continue on living my life, happily wearing my "nothing" shoe.
My plan was to visit different churches and if they were interesting, research their over-arching values. I didn't want to find something that felt like a fit, only to find that I couldn't stomach their values on a particular topic. This is what happened to me in my childhood and adolescence.
The first church we went to I surprisingly liked. It was vastly different than any other church experience that I had ever had. First, there were people that didn't have just white or grey hair. It was uplifting, thoughtful, had good music and dare I say... almost fun. We started getting to know people, and their values. I would describe the congregation and leadership as current, grounded and open minded. We really liked it and decided to stay a while.
Early on in our experiences with the church and becoming more spiritual in general, some major things happened. On the day that we were scheduled to have our first IVF, my sister had a massive stroke. I just started to feel a bit of peace with some of my "God stuff". The stroke and a few other oddly coincidental occurrences in my life, started to feel almost .... planned. I had just left my professional career that I once devoted most of my life to (where I was a borderline workaholic), and boom, 6 months later, I was thrust into caring for my sister full time.
I started putting the "everything" shoe on more and more and toying with the idea that everything happens for a reason. Admittedly, it wasn't a perfect fit. I couldn't wrap my brain around to factor in free will, something mentioned in the bible quite a few times from what I've learned. I tried to talk myself through God handing out punishments, like a parent does for a child. In a loving, purposeful way.
I didn't share it, but I found comfort in these thoughts for quite some time. I felt like maybe the reason why we had experienced IF was because I was meant to care for my sister? There was no one else in our family that was able to devote themselves to her recovery in the way that I was. Her care was in a large city and was several hours from where everyone lived. Everyone else had work and other conflicting commitments, except for me.
Maybe her life was headed down some terrible path that was completely unforeseeable? Maybe this stroke was a way of God pushing "reset" on her life (and mine?)
Caring for her gave me a sense of purpose like I had not experienced before. Our mother had a hard time dealing with her recent divorce from our Dad and she wasn't able to be there for us emotionally. And so, for a couple of years my relationship with my sister morphed into to more of a parent-child relationship. I secretly wondered if this new found sense of purpose was a little bit of how parenting might feel?
Her stroke was one of the most challenging things I have ever been through. It stands there along side the long lasting grief surrounding our infertility and miscarriages. Immediately after her stroke she had no mobility in her arm and reduced mobility in her leg. She lost one quarter of her vision and had had cognitive impairments that she was unable to recognize. Watching therapists delicately point them out to her was gut wrenching. The depression that she experienced before the stroke penetrated much deeper, and got to frightening levels.
It still chokes me up to think about the "hand she was dealt" and it's been three and a half years. I watched as almost every part of her life was stripped away; her independence as her livelihood and driver's license was revoked, her appearance (including having half of her skull temporarily removed to stop life threatening swelling in her brain), having a lifeless arm hanging off of her body. Her social life mostly disappeared as as her "friends" quietly faded away and her extra curricular activities turned into time spent in therapy. In her once budding career as a teacher, she now would face huge challenges to perform tasks that were once ordinary for her.
I watched her fight tooth and nail. At the beginning, by staring at her fingers for hours. Her therapists suggested using visualization techniques to assist her brain to build a detour around the dead spot in her brain. Weeks into her recovery, her thumb twitched for the first time. Every.single.part of her recovery seemed to be equally hard won. Watching her do it was one of the most difficult things (I hope) I'll ever witness, but also one of the most amazing.
The doctors say that she won a good lottery and a bad one. Bad that this awful thing happened to her, and there was no cure, because that they could find the cause. It was just a "random event" they said. Good in that she was able to recover better than any of her doctors would have predicted. Today she has her drivers licence, can move her arm and hand with almost a full range of motion. She has been supply teaching, and has a new supportive and wonderful boyfriend.
Thinking that this happened for a reason helped me to help her. It helped me patient with her, and support her when I thought I had nothing left to give.
The crisis faded, and we both moved back into our own realities. We resumed our fertility treatments after a year long hiatus. Two subsequent miscarriages on top of the grief we had already experienced rocked us. I began thinking of things like why little babies, who could have not possibly done anything wrong could be born into horrible circumstances. What could that baby have possibly done wrong? What kind of God would do that? Not a God that I wanted anything to do with. My "everything" shoe began to come loose.
(I never intended this post to be so long... or about this... It's funny how for me blogging has a way of lifting something off my heart that I didn't know was sitting so close to the surface. I've run out of time today. To be continued...