Relief is the feeling that floods your body when you know there’s a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.
I’ve felt relief many times throughout my life. Relief in knowing my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Cote, still liked me after she scolded me for not being compassionate enough toward another student. Relief at realizing I could help my mother keep the household functioning when she had to leave my father, my siblings and me during an unexpected health issue with my grandparents. More relief as I learned a highly-ranked university accepted me when I felt I wasn’t sufficiently qualified. Then, there was the day I learned my university chose me as a resident advisor to a dorm full of freshman who needed a guiding light in their first years away from their families.
Relief As An Adult
At the same time, relief is also the sense of knowing my fears would not be fully realized. The day I realized that my sense of inadequacy was simply my overactive mind being my toughest critic.
Comfort of a different sort infused me while serving as a volunteer on the midnight shift at the university neonatal infant (NICU) ward. It happened when a tiny, helpless premature baby coo’ed back when I smiled and coo’ed at them. Then there was the elation I felt at landing my first professional full-time job. Relief in discovering a new life awaited me on the other side infertility hell.
If it isn’t abundantly obvious, I am well acquainted with the sense of reassurance things will be fine in the face of intense worrying or panic. So, even though I knew better than to live in fear, a renewed feeling of relief and consolation came over me this week.
The first sign in recent days? Alex and I each received confirmation we were eligible for a COVID vaccine. Finally! Soon after the needle pierced my arm, I booked a flight in early May to Michigan. The trip is timed to when my vaccination will be fully effective. I am so relieved to know I can finally hug my mother and fragile father and laugh in person with my sisters for the first time in 17 months.
Also this week, I prepared for a more somber encounter with 20+ women in the midst of invasive treatments for infertility. The Zoom gathering I agreed to in January was upon me. With care and extra sensitivity I watched as 15 faces came into view, all 20 years my junior. Others, too raw with emotion, simply logged in with their names.
For the next two hours we talked and reflected on the insatiable hunger we’ve each felt to feel our child stir in our womb and to cradle our children in our arms. We teared up talking about the pain and loss we’d endured. There was an ebb and flow of questions about what happens when life doesn’t go according to plan. Is there any relief from the suffering and pain? Can you ever be around children again without feeling suffocated with grief? Yes, I told them. It’s clear, however, not much has changed in the nearly 18 years since I stopped pursuing IVF treatment. Our conversations were private and not for publication so I will leave it there.
Meanwhile, Jody Day reached out this week. She has formed a new conscious childless elderwoman initiative. Kudos to Jody for once again identifying and addressing a new need for women like us as we age in a society that doesn’t recognize our existence. She asked if I had time to join a Spring Equinox conversation this Saturday. Since I’m still in COVID isolation awaiting vaccine dose #2, I said, “yes, absolutely!”
UPDATE: Fortunately, Jody taped the session here.session here.