I sometimes wonder if my husband and I are gluttons for punishment.
We both work in fields that can be highly rewarding yet can also be highly frustrating, depressing, and carry one of the highest rates for stress-related health and emotional issues.
I became a runner in college, running 5ks (3.1 miles) but decided that wasn’t “tough” enough so I started doing half-marathons. Then I roped my husband into running with me. (It’s amazing what a good man will do while dating you to show you he is serious about being in your life.) Running half-marathons is akin to banging your head against a wall slowly for 2 hours. While it’s going on you have no idea why you are doing it, but it feels so good once you stop that you wax nostalgic about doing it again. And I know there are runners out there who “love” the sport and all that, but I’m not one of them. I like pushing my body to the limits and it is an easy way for me to keep in shape. But in no way do I “love” bloody toenails, 6am training runs, or running in the winter, in fact I don’t run in the winter outside, it’s against my moral principles. I am not one of those people who feels it necessary to run everyday, even on holidays. When I see people running on Christmas day I feel the urge to taunt them by standing outside with a can of reddi-whip and telling them that I just finished eating a pound of bacon for breakfast and that I’m having whip cream as my midmorning snack.
We became foster parents and a little while after that found out we would face severe infertility issues. Yet we remained foster parents, knowing we might take children into our home and have to give them back some day. We chose to take the risk of becoming parents to a child that we might lose.
And that is what we have just done. We spent the past year being parents. And then one morning we woke up, fed the baby and got her dressed. We played with her for a few minutes playing with toys and giving kisses back and forth. And then we kissed her goodbye and willingly handed her over. She had no idea that anything was wrong, or that anything was happening. And like that, we were no longer parents.
Gluttons for punishment.
And now to cope with the loss that this has created I am throwing myself back into running. I’ve signed up for a 5k that happens in 5 days despite the fact that I broke my toe a few days ago and haven’t run in weeks. And no, I’m not trading emotional pain for physical pain, I’m probably just going to walk the race.
But I do feel there is something to be said to challenging one’s self physically and mentally. It feels purifying. It feels like if I can get through “this”, whatever that is, I can get through other things as well. When I push my body to its physical limits it helps me feel like I can overcome anything physical or mental. And when I push my emotions to their limits, and can still see past it to the hope of the future, I feel like I could accomplish anything.
And that is where I am right now. I miss our foster baby. I wish she was still with us. But I can see past that to the future. I can see the joy her bio family must be feeling at having her back. And I can see the good in the system, that is often broken, but sometimes it works and people get their lives back on track.
And for all the sorrow and pain I feel right now, I wouldn’t take any of the past year back. People have told us that they don’t understand how we could do this, foster a child, while being infertile, and then having to give the child back. But the sorrow I feel right now is nothing compared to the joy I’ve had for more than a year.
We’ve just finished a ‘half-marathon’. I’m bruised, exhausted, worn out, and in pain. But I’m looking back on what I’ve just accomplished. I’ve pushed myself to the limits and I’ve survived and come out for the better on the other side. The pain is still very present and very real, and the recovery will take some time. But I also feel the beginning of the legendary “runner’s high” which is this euphoric feeling runners get after long runs. Your body tingles, you smile despite being in pain, and you feel like you have done something really incredible. And while you might not be thinking completely straight, you have no regrets and look forward to the next chance to do it all again.
Thank you to all of you who have supported us on our journey as foster parents. We’re exhausted and sad, but in no way regretful. The runner’s high is setting in, and we are looking back on what we’ve accomplished with joy and nostalgia. We still need to spend time recovering, but we can see the light up ahead.
Here’s a pic of me, in full “runner’s high” mode. I’d just finished running a half-marathon with my bestie Laura, it was cold and rainy, I had a bloody toenail, multiple blisters, and was slightly hypothermic (hence the heat blanket I’m wearing like a cape). Yet I felt great, and foolish enough to pose like this: