As one could infer by the last two (very old -sorry!) posts I wrote here, I just may be a wee bit obsessed with gardening. I had an amazing first gardening season in 2015 where I learned so much and was eager to put all this new knowledge to good use in 2016. And an update: got that dehydrator! Woot-woot!
Around the end of January 2016, I went through my seeds and tested what I had from last season to determine which were still viable. Already, I was off to a better start – I was able to restrain myself from growing my tomato plants in February! I re-read my gardening journal entries and noted the locations that worked for certain plants, and what didn’t, and made a new “plot plan” for the 2016 season. To recap: we have a few garden boxes at our house that, based on their sun exposure, are best suited for herbs or low light pants, and we rent a garden plot locally.
This year, we decided we wanted to add another, larger garden box. We asked our landlord and he emphatically gave the okay. It should be noted that no matter where we grow in our backyard, the light will always be fleeting. We’re quite nestled in the mountains of the North Shore, surrounded by a good little green belt. At the peak of summer, we get about 6-7 hours of direct sunlight, and depending on the area of the backyard, sometimes less. Still, having this extra bit of space was going to be awesome for maximizing our yield. We were stoked!
Concurrently, I began planning and preparing to go back to grad school. For a while, I had been considering when was the right time for me, and decided sooner rather than later. I knew I didn’t want to stay in the position I was in currently, even though I really enjoyed my workmates and my job. I didn’t always feel challenged enough and knew I had more in me to give. Plus, I believed the further along in life I got, the harder it would be to make the leap and go back. No, it was best to go now while I was still young and while my husband and I were relatively debt-free and with minimal expenses. So I began the process: talking to my husband, talking with my parents, talking with my coworkers and past professors all to garner support.
I put together a proposal for my application and secured the necessary documents and referrals for my admission to the program. And I was accepted for entry into the program for the January 2017 intake! I was thrilled!
At the same time, I began to start the seedlings of certain items and had planted a few plants already. Then something really amazing happened… I became pregnant!
My husband and I had been trying for 8 months, and we were thrilled to learn that I was expecting. To add to this joy, just a few months prior I had conceived, but then miscarried at about 9 weeks. Miscarrying rocked me in a way I was not prepared for. I think one aspect of the trauma of my miscarriage, aside from the loss itself, is both my husband and I had been proud that it hadn’t taken us that long to get pregnant. Dare I even say we might have been a little smug about it, or perhaps a fairer judgement is we were just blissfully ignorant to the possibility that such a beautiful gift could be taken away and so were ill prepared when it happened. We both worked at recovering in the ways we needed: speaking with friends and family, lots of crying, hugging, kissing, holding each other. We also talked about what we would like to do moving forward, and agreed we still wanted to continue to try, but that we were also going to go about life as usual.This attitude also applied to my grad school application.
Some people are going to read that and think how crazy that is of us to do; how crazy that is of me to do. You have every right to think that, but I guess that is an honest example of mine and of my family’s personality. We were now hyper aware that getting pregnant could potentially take us a couple attempts before we conceived, and it was therefore important to me and to my healing process that I not put my professional goals on hold, and move forward with my application. If both happened at the same time (pregnancy and grad school) we would figure it out. I just didn’t want to forestall one aspect of my life for another, and potentially end up resenting that decision if things didn’t go as planned.
Before moving on, I want to take a moment to express the following to anyone reading this that might need to hear it: I don’t like to think of things as “blessings”, so I will say I feel very privileged to have been accepted into grad school, but also to have conceived shortly after my miscarriage. I am profoundly grateful for my personal and professional luck and I do not take that luck for granted. I know life doesn’t always work out so simply. My good fortune over the last year is not lost on me.
GIVING IN. LETTING GO.
Just as things were starting to come into bloom, my energy began to plummet. The first trimester completely drained me. I wasn’t sick, thankfully, but I could barely make it through the afternoon without a nap, let alone through an entire day of work. It turned out my iron was a little low and that played a small factor, but it certainly wasn’t the only reason why I was so drained. I’ve learned since getting pregnant just how much work and energy is required to make another person! My body was putting in overtime to create our baby. No wonder I needed to lie down after I vacuumed the bedroom.
To make matters more complicated, my husband had flown back home to be with family for three and a half weeks right around the time my energy completely tanked. Obviously the timing of the trip was unintentional ( we had booked the tickets months in advance), and I was doing fine before he left. This dip was unexpected and he felt terrible! Now we know, and we certainly won’t be planning trips and babies around the same time in the future, but it meant I really was on my own when I needed him more than ever. Thank god for friends and family who stopped by to help out, cook food, take me grocery shopping, and in general support me in his absence.
The thing that suffered the most was our poor garden. Okay, maybe it didn’t suffer the MOST, but to watch it decompose, wither and dry up, or rot on the vines so difficult for me. I had been so looking forward to really giving it my all this season, and early spring had been awesome! We had so much lettuce and spinach, and other yummy greens growing to eat; yet, when July came around and things really started to burst, I was on the couch napping every 4 hours. Weeding? Not likely. Watering? Not possible. One day when I was feeling slightly more energetic, I took myself out to the backyard to pick some salmon berries and that little bit of activity put my back out and put me on the couch for two days. As hard as this was to admit to myself, I needed to slow down.
Slowing down is, to put it lightly, challenging for me. I’m sure that characteristic is evident by now. It was also a hard to effectively communicate how drained I was through distance to my husband. Not being here, he couldn’t really see the change in front of him. Sure, we were talking on the phone and via FaceTime, and I was telling him about my experience, but it didn’t quite hit home in the same way until I joined him in Ontario near the end of July.
As we had planned, I flew out to meet him and his family and to partake in a wedding at the end of July. We also had an amazing trip planned with his dad and step mum to Boston which I was determined to go on. We had Red Sox tickets, for goodness sake! The plan was we would drive to Boston, which we did end up doing, but we had some car troubles that really ate up the amount of time we had to tour the city. Then there was the heat, which was unlike any heat I as a West Coast girl had ever experienced before. It was like passing through a wall of soup when you stepped out your door. I’ll never forget sitting in the dining space of the hotel in Boston and watching the weather channel describe the humidity as “obtrusive” one day. OBTRUSIVE! My energy certainly hadn’t improved either, so to try and walk around in the humidity, feeling exhausted, puffy, and always dehydrated, but working hard to squeeze everything we missed with the car delays in… eventually I had had enough. I broke. I gave in.
After our quick trip in Boston, we headed back home for the remainder of the summer and I fully surrendered to the new state of “me.” I started asking for more help from my husband, which he gladly gave. We worked harder as a team than we ever had before. I knew it was a strange adjustment for both of us to have me be so thoroughly dependent on him, but my growing belly happily reminded us why.
Even though he now had an intimate understanding of first trimester pregnancy, I think he was still shocked when we came home and he saw our abysmal garden plots. I admit I was shocked too! I had kind of been avoiding going outside. Everything was rotting or dead. I knew as soon as I looked at our plots that the damage was irreversible, but he told me we could salvage some of what we had planted. I think he said this because he felt so terrible about not being at home much during the summer. So we let plants rot a little longer in the ground until finally I said we needed to throw out the dead garden because it was making me depressed.
Maybe the saddest loss from the garden, though, were the apples. The two trees had really blossomed the year previous. I had made jars upon jars of apple sauce, and dried apples for back country snacks. We were looking to double our load this year, but were heartbroken when our landlord phoned and said he was going to get a group to come over and pick them to distribute to food banks before they all started falling and the bears started coming around. We both looked at each other with great disappointment, knowing we had missed our chance.
One day we were discussing the garden, and my husband casually mentioned that he was upset we didn’t get as big of yield this summer. I was so hurt by this. I sat with that emotion for a bit, and then later spoke to him about why his innocent comment stung so much. I didn’t realize until the garden got going how badly I had wanted to have a big yield too, nor did I grasp how personally invested I was in its success until it began to run away from me, that its failure felt like I had failed. The reality, however, was it failed because sometimes gardens fail. It took a backseat to life, and that was okay. That’s the lesson the garden can offer to its gardeners: sometimes things happen and its beyond anyone’s control. Death is just as much apart of the garden as is life. Our bad year was no one’s fault, nor was it worth beating ourselves up about. Letting go was okay.
By giving in I eventually came to a place of great acceptance. The plans I had made didn’t work out because they just couldn’t! What’s that line from that John Lennon song? “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” So very true. It can be hard to let go of the things you want, but in this particular case, doing so was for the absolute best reason possible.
I am happy to report that my energy returned to me in the second trimester and that overall I have had an absolutely wonderful pregnancy. Feeling and seeing the growth inside of me has brought me and my husband a profound level of joy. I am now in the beginning/middle of the third trimester, eagerly awaiting the next growing season while also making plenty of room for acceptance and forgiveness for “life, as it happens” along the way.