The word 'Nadir' came back to me Christmas night as I sat on the floor of my daughter's room at 5 a.m. stripping the vomit soaked pajamas off the baby for the fifth time in as many hours. It basically means "the lowest point" and is one of those random facts I retained from my college education that is so very useful to me now. In a way, being up with a vomiting baby all night long was the perfect end to what had been a truly horrific day for me. On the surface, everything went well. The boys were adorable with their new toys and no tears were openly shed, but it all started on Christmas Eve when we returned home from our dinner out and began the Christmas Eve festivities. No Dad. It was hugely noticeable and I had to try really hard not to think about how optimistic I had been last year on Christmas Eve and even harder not to wonder where he was and what he was doing that night. I finished wrapping presents and filled stockings in silence wondering how many years it will have to be this way. I finally fell into bed at 1 a.m. and lay awake until 4 a.m.
Christmas morning could have been filmed for a feel good Christmas movie because the boys were so excited and cute and full of what we have been referring to as "Christmas magic" for the last few weeks. Junior swore he saw Santa and waved out the window to him the night before. Bubba just couldn't believe that the reindeer had been on his house. Sis couldn't believe how much wrapping paper there was on the ground to eat and not one person was stopping her! I couldn't believe that their father wasn't there to share in the "christmas magic" and never will again. I believe people are supposed to be in twos to share that kind of stuff. It feels hollow to enjoy it alone and know that when I am old, no one will share those memories in the same way. It took everything I had, plus several promises to friends that I would not text J and tell him to come over for Christmas morning. He has made his choice and I need to start as we mean to go on.
He did come over for the afternoon to play with the kids and see their toys. That was a whole different kind of hell. It felt so normal to have his presence and hear his voice in the house. Every time I remembered that he chose to leave us, and was only there for a few hours, it hurt all over again. When he left that afternoon, I had a shrewd idea where he was going and I fought tears all evening. I am glad the boys were so engaged with their toys they didn't notice. I would have hated to stress them out on what had been a great day for them. So, to have Sis start puking around midnight felt like a fitting end to the day and by 5 a.m. I felt like I had hit my lowest point yet. My nadir.
I am not foolish enough to think that I do not have further to fall. Earlier on in this process, I kept wondering when I would start to feel better and that I couldn't possibly feel worse. My advice to you is to not test the universe like that :-) As I sat there on the floor with a sad, sick baby, holding back tears of exhaustion and frustration, feeling like I couldn't get any lower, I finally gave myself permission to be angry at being left with all this work of parenting along with the emotional blow I have taken ( I know, I know..). There have been plenty of other things to be angry about and this is not my first brush with the emotion, but anger at being left with the exhaustion of raising three kids five and under has been buried under the grief of losing the one person I want to share the joys of them with. As I searched for a blanket that did not have puke on it, I pictured him peacefully asleep in his apartment across town. I knew he would roll out of bed whenever he wanted (while I had yet to sleep and anticipated more puke) and knew the boys would be up and requiring help with their toys in a few short hours.
We made the decision together about when to have our children. With each decision was the implication that parenting was a joint venture for us. How did he make it okay in his own conscience to do such damage to me emotionally as well as leave me the enormous load of mothering every day alone? Parenting is a joy I would never give up, but it. is. hard!!! The times that he does have the kids is a frantic game of catch up on work and laundry and house cleaning and errands and all those things I used to do when he got home every night but can't seem to get done without another adult around to help divide and conquer. I'm beat, I am emotionally broken and now I am angry. Him being "available as possible to meet the needs of our kids" doesn't help me with sick kids in the night. Or when dinner needs cooked and the baby needs fed and the boys need attention. It doesn't help me when I need one thing at the store and have to take all three kids. It doesn't help me when I can't shower or get dressed or leave Sis's line of vision when she is sick and cranky or teething. Sis is an extremely good baby, but is starting to scoot, which ends life as we know it. I am lucky that J still wants to be involved with the kids, but I don't know how he banishes the guilt for making my life so much harder on every single level, especially when he once assured me in a letter a few years ago "I always want you to be happy because you make me happy." I believed him then and now I feel like a fool. When he was still here, I always tried to acknowledge when he needed time "off" and he did a good job of doing the same. In fact, when my world ended, I was at the point of taking on extra work to earn up money to send him on a fishing trip to Alaska because he had been working so hard for the last year. He was always good about jumping in to help when he got home each day and in return I tried to be aware of the extra tired days and would send him upstairs for a break before taking on the kids. I was happy to do it then. Now I begrudge every break he gets. I begrudge every time he gets home from a hard day at work and is able to put his feet up and watch TV, when I don't get any version of a break until the kids are in bed and even then there is stuff to do. I begrudge any time he gets to go out to a movie without having to get a babysitter. I begrudge every time he can make a quick trip to the video or grocery store without loading up three children. I begrudge every early morning that I am up with the kids while he gets up when he wants. I begrudge every cranky day the kids have and every fight I have to mediate. I feel like these are all things he has taken from me because we were supposed to parent as a team and he changed the rules on me to suit himself. I know he knows what is involved in running this house and caring for these kids. He is willing to help with what he can, but in that case, I have to also take on the humiliation of having to ask for help from someone who has so completely defeated me and brought me lower than any other human in this world had power to do. I would rather struggle on alone.
There are too many good men and priesthood bearers leaving their families for reasons unworthy of the way they were raised and the covenants they made, both official and unofficial. I am sickened by the number of stories just like mine. How do these men do this? Even those who are willing to still pay the bills are falling far short of the greatest role they will ever have. Men know it is their role to provide for the family. Is it easier for them to leave because they think that although they are hurting everyone, they are still providing for them thus fulfilling their main duty? (don't even get me started on the men who actively try to NOT provide for the families they leave behind). Is it time to redefine what fathers need to be in the home? To re-stress what kind of influence they have on their children? I don't care what kind of success J has in this life and what kind of example he tries to be for our kids or how much he loves them. I feel strongly that anything good he does is largely going to be overshadowed by this one great failure to stand up to his measure as a man and a father and to make the effort to be there to raise them. Losing respect for him is heartbreaking for me. I have always been so proud of him and who he was. So much that I insisted that Junior be named after him. At the time, I wanted him to be just like his dad. I haven't given up hope that he will someday be worthy of the name his oldest son now bears.
My current Nadir feels very low. It has been seven months and I am tired. Tired of crying, tired of wishing I could disappear, tired of being strong, tired of wondering what was so wrong with me, tired of being baffled, tired of feeling like there is a shadow over everything in my life, tired of being humiliated, tired of dreading the future, tired of the trigger days I know are coming up in the next year, tired of being so disillusioned, tired of being tortured by memories, tired of missing him, tired of being so completely and indescribably lonely. Tired of being tired. Any Pollyanna tendencies I had are all used up for the moment. This Christmas season has been brutal, although made bearable by so many kind and loving friends and family. I don't mean to seem ungrateful. It's just...
I know I will bounce back enough. I will pick myself up and dust myself off because I have no choice and my kids need a stronger mom than this. I have goals for the year and I am looking forward to focusing on some things that are positive. I am not starting 2010 like I thought I would and I have a lot of work to do. I'm grateful for everyones help and prayers so far.
By the way, one of my "goals" for the year is a cruise. Who's with me??...