Week Five: Kathy Benson

Write about the five moments that changed your life.

There are many moments that have changed my life. Some of these are obvious as to why they were significant, such as when I met and eventually married my husband Bob and when I gave birth to our children. Other moments came and went with less fanfare, but when I look back I can see how they changed the trajectory of my journey.

Here are five moments that I think truly changed my life:

1) When I was in sixth grade my family and I ended up in counseling for various reasons. Spending quality time analyzing thoughts and feelings with my parents and sister was certainly not typical for someone my age to experience, but doing so helped us to learn to communicate and deal with conflict more effectively. This would prove to be an invaluable skill going forward in life in the healthy relationships I developed with family, friends and ultimately my husband and our children.

2) Alcoholism runs in my family and I grew up knowing a number of practicing and recovering alcoholics. I was aware what alcohol could do to a person and thus developed a fear of drinking. When I was in high school I didn’t drink or do drugs and didn’t want to be around those who did. This became a problem when most of my friends started experimenting with both and didn’t like to have me and my judgmental-self around when they were getting drunk and/or high. I went through lots of different groups of friends in high school in part because of this and had a hard time finding where I fit in.

When I got to college, one of the first really good friends that I made helped me to understand that it is possible to drink and not get drunk or necessarily be an Alcoholic. I learned to accept and make peace with the idea that lots of people are able to handle their alcohol, drink in moderation and not become an Alcoholic, including me.

3) In June 1999, after graduating with my Masters degree in Leisure Studies-Recreation Management, I started my first job in the real world with an award-winning park district that had a great reputation. I had high hopes for my career path and wanted to be on the fast track to becoming the director of a park district someday. Bob and I got married the following year, in September 2000. We had agreed that when we started our family, that I would be a stay at home mom, but in the meantime I was determined to work hard and accomplish as much as I could in the profession that I had been studying to practice in for 6 years of my life.

It didn’t take me long to realize that the culture at my workplace was dysfunctional. I was surrounded by workaholics and my perfectionist people pleasing personality fit right in. I quickly bought into working long hours, as well as comparing war stories with my coworkers when we would brag about our late nights on the job.

Then after three years on the job, in September 2002, I was let go. I didn’t see it coming.  I was given the “choice to resign” or be fired. I “chose” to resign, instead of being officially let go and fighting what I believed was an unjust release, after my father encouraged me to look forward and not make my life about what had “happened to me,” but rather learn what I could from my experience and move on. I believe that my dad gave me incredibly wise counsel that day and my “choice” to resign is a decision that I do not regret.

Amazingly after this blow to my self-esteem, I landed on my feet. I found an awesome new job just three weeks later, with a faith-based organization that had a much healthier culture. I realized during my brief job search that I was not as interested in a career that would bring me power and attention as I once had been. It’s ironic that I ever got to a point where I wanted those things, as my chosen profession is not the kind that you would typically go into if you have such aspirations. I discovered though that no matter what field you are in there are always going to be power hungry people who will do whatever it takes to try to get to the top. I learned that I wanted a professional vocation that would allow me to help others and make a difference in the world, however I didn’t want my job to be the main focus of my life.

4) In April 2002 Bob and I decided that we were ready to try to build our family. We were surprised when it took longer then we anticipated. Though, in the grand scheme of things, eight months trying to conceive before we were able to sustain a pregnancy (which led to the birth of our first child/son Sean in October 2003) was not bad. In July of that year, after a few cycles of trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant, I was frustrated and started searching for information that might help us on our quest. In doing so I came across a website called FertilityFriend.com.

On Fertility Friend I learned a lot about how to maximize our chances for conception through charting (tracking my basal body temperature and cervical mucous) during my menstrual cycles. I also found out that there were a lot of other women who were struggling with the experience of trying to build their families too. I eventually started connecting and communicating with some of these women on online discussion boards and in “cycle buddy” groups.

Between 2002 and 2007 I was active in online buddy groups for those who were trying to conceive, followed by first time moms, then those who were trying to conceive another child and finally those who were dealing with secondary infertility. My participation in these groups served in many ways as a precursor to blogging for me. Once I began my blog in April 2007, I transitioned away from the discussion boards and buddy groups, but was able to maintain a lot of those connections through blogging and Facebook (after I joined in 2008) where many of those women and I were able to keep in touch.

5) After three years struggling with secondary infertility, including three early pregnancy losses and four Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) cycles, in October 2007 we finally were able to conceive and sustain another pregnancy. Then in January 2009 when we were about 15 weeks pregnant, it was discovered through an echocardiogram, that our baby, a girl, had an extremely rare and severe combination of congenital heart defects. We were told there was a decent chance that our daughter would be born alive, but that it was not likely she would live very long after her birth. Receiving that news was devastating; especially after all we had been through trying to expand our family.

To make a long story short, our second child Molly, was born and died on April 17, 2008. She lived about ten minutes after her birth. Molly’s birthday was the most bittersweet day of my life, as I was so happy that I got to meet our baby girl alive, but also so sad that she had to leave this world so soon. My family and I learned so much from our journey with Molly, including how to be more sensitive and compassionate human beings. As a wounded healer I try to reach out to others who are living through infertility, loss or other difficult life experiences through my blog, participating in support groups and one on one.

A year and half after Molly was born and died our family was blessed with the birth of our “rainbow baby,” Abigail. Living through a “subsequent pregnancy after loss” (SPAL) was not easy for me. I was scared that we might lose our third child/second daughter somehow. But we made it through and Abby was born with a healthy heart in September 2009. Having experienced a SPAL has also allowed me to minister to others who are able to conceive and sustain pregnancies again after losing one or more babies. I appreciate the opportunity to “pay it forward,” as others did for my family and me along the way.

What are one or more key moments that changed your life?

____________

Kathy Benson is a bereaved and blessed mom, writer and group fitness instructor trying to live mindfully and find joy in the journey after dealing with secondary infertility and loss for five years. She lives in Chicago, Illinois with her husband and two living children.

Kathy blogs at Bereaved and Blessed. You can also follow Kathy on Twitter @BereavedBlessed and her Facebook page.

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5 thoughts on “Week Five: Kathy Benson

  1. I cannot begin to imagine what losing Molly must have been like. Thank you for sharing her story with us and for allowing her to be a part of the healing process for so many others who have also experienced loss.

    Your comment about your dad’s advice really hit home with me. When I was in foster care, I received similar advice from a man I looked up to… it changed my entire perspective and I honestly believe helped shape me into the person I am today.

    Words… sometimes so small, yet profound at the same time. It’s why I love writing.

  2. Pingback: Thursday’s Voice: Weeks Five & Six

  3. I love getting to know you better through your writing. I love the honest way you approach topics that are difficult for many people. This was a lovely post – thank you for sharing.

  4. Pingback: Week Twenty-nine: Kathy Benson « The Today Voice

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