Monday, October 12, 2020

A Balance of Hope

Hope is in the air (the blogging air, see Mali and Mel) and it's made me think on my complex relationship with the concept.

I am capable of hoping was against the odds and looking for all the ways things can go right, instead of wrong. I loved that in the presentation I saw as part of our conference day Friday hope was defined as "finding something positive to hang on to, believing that at some point things will get better." That is a lovely, realistic definition. 

Sometimes my kind of hope can be misconstrued as callous. I have been on the receiving end of calls from family telling me that someone got a bad diagnosis, or is waiting for scary test results. I am not a crier in these cases. I feel that I need to save my tears for when there's really something to cry about. 

I guess it's more pragmatic than callous, but it's really hope -- everything is going to work out, and there's no sense getting super upset until the news is REALLY really bad. This pretty much only works for things that are real. I'm capable of imagining and then getting plenty upset over all kinds of horrific things that never come to pass.

I was not great at managing hope in infertility and adoption. I either swung to complete magical thinking (this WILL happen! Because I'm going to do all the wacky  things possible to guarantee  it!) or utter despair (actually apologizing to my embryos AS THEY WERE BEING TRANSFERRED towards the end because I was sure my uterus was going to murder them).

Hope is funny. You can have too much, and too little. It's sort of like a spice -- too much and it's overpowering, too little and nothing tastes good. Finding that just-right balance can be tricky.

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy! 

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Uncertainty, Compassion Fatigue, and Me

Friday was our Superintendent's Day Conference, and the presentation for 8:00-9:15 was a lecture on toxic stress and compassion fatigue: "Are We Going To Be Okay?" presented by a well-known social worker who has a practice focusing on trauma, grief, loss, and life transitions. 

Initially I laughed about it and was like, "Are we going to be okay? UM, HELL NO! This is End Times! You know what helps you deal with chronic stress? An HOUR OF TALKING ABOUT CHRONIC STRESS, bwahahahahaha." 

But then I listened and watched the presentation from our library reading room Smart Board, and I was less flip and a little sarcastic about the thing and more "Okay, let's take some notes on this business." 

First, I loved that she talked about herself in many terms, including "as a parent," but when she talked about teachers, she said, "Those of you who can relate to being parents." Which made me all warm and fuzzy inside because it wasn't that assumption that everyone in the room is a parent, or worse the blanket statement KNOWING that everyone in the room is not a parent for whatever reason. 

Then, she said, "The phrase, We're all in this together is NOT comforting." Which I agree with, even though we are all experiencing this collective trauma it is not quite the same for every person, and it means that there's no one who has a magic answer. 

Then she said, "Uncertainty is life's way of saying there are only a few things you can control." 

This is a lesson that I keep needing to learn and I just. can't. learn. it. I hate uncertainty. HATE IT. You would think I would be a pro at it by now, as most of my life has been spent in some sort of haze of uncertainty, but all this current situation does is remind me that I don't have control and so I try to grasp at it in ways that are probably not super helpful. 

The focus of the talk was on Compassion Fatigue, and how this is exhaustion from caring so much, from wanting to solve all the problems and be a fixer, but that it's JUST NOT POSSIBLE at this moment in time. Or really, any time (but especially pandemic time). 

I am most definitely experiencing Compassion Fatigue, as I am trying to keep track of all the things and help my students with all of the many assignments that they have (five days' worth!) when I only see them really two times per week (the math just doesn't add up!) and try to get those who have been absent to get caught up. 

Let me take us on a tangent and tell you a story about how this did not work out well for me. 

I was working with a student who has been absent a lot due to a sloshy-full bucket of family trauma and personal health concerns, and when he was in last Monday I stayed after to help him. Because I pretty much will never say no to anyone who is willing to stay after or come see me for extra help. Like an idiot, I sat at a table with him for a good 30 minutes while helping to take notes on videos and see what he was doing on his laptop. On Thursday, the next day I saw him in person, he was absent. His mom let me know that he had a sore throat, but no worries because he also gets strep a lot. Fast forward to that evening, when I saw on social media (because this mom has a public profile for a variety of professional reasons) that the mom had come down with flu-like symptoms. OH SHIT. Sore throat, flu-like symptoms in the house... my anxiety started to build. And then broke the next day, when I was supposed to meet with the student virtually but when I called the mom said that he had a bad night and was real sick, and the strep test came back negative, and she was feeling awful, and so she was also getting a COVID test (I knew the student was getting one, because he went to the doctor for a sore throat and that's just a given). Enter massive freakout. I was convinced that they had COVID and I had exposed myself by sitting in close proximity for 30 minutes, albeit masked, and then I became acutely aware of a headache and sore throat I was feeling as well. It turns out I have a headache every Friday from the stress of the week and wearing a mask for 8 hours and trying to talk loudly through it, and that same loud-talking-through-a-mask can make you feel sore-throated, and I was super tired (probably from the chronic stress), so I burst into tears and left early to get a COVID test. Which left me feeling like I was about to sneeze for about 12 hours. 

Spoiler alert -- I did not have COVID, and neither did they. But it took all weekend to get that official news, and in the meantime I slept in a different bedroom and we wore masks in the house and I freaked out but also slept a lot, which was actually pretty healing. Except that when I put my mask on in the house when I got home, I somehow managed to get a paper cut from the inside-metal-edge by my nose IN MY EYE. No joke. So I ended up in Urgent Care a second time to get my eye looked at on Saturday, and because of my history of eye inflammation and scleritis from 2017, the year of unholy hell, I had to make an appointment with the fancy eye doctor before I could get any drops of any kind. Luckily, the prednisone drops they gave me seem to be working, but my eye pressure in that eye was already high and all I could think was GOOD LORD HERE WE GO AGAIN, I SWEAR IF I GET SCLERITIS AGAIN AND HAVE TO GO ON PREDNISONE LONG TERM I WILL TAKE A GODDAMN LEAVE. I don't think that is going to be what happens as my eye is pretty cleared up at this point, but I was at a total breaking point. 

Which leads me back to the presentation this past Friday. It spoke to me, and it spoke to me hard. If I am going to survive this year, I am going to need to reframe how I do things, how I DON'T do things, how I manage my guilt and self-imposed standards, how I truly and fully embrace the idea of self-care and don't feel bad about it. 

It's a tall order. 

But, here are the Cliff Notes of the presentation in case it is helpful for you, too, wherever you are in this pandemic living: 

Compassion Fatigue Impacts Cognitive Messaging, so try these: 
- Acknowledgment (THIS IS REAL. Be gentle to yourself.)
- Reframing (perspective shapes how we spend our energy and see the situation. PS I am fairly bad at this and go to WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE pretty quickly, but I also can pull it back. Goals.)
- Positive Affirmations (Say things out loud and maybe you'll become kind of like your own cheerleader, even something as simple as "I'm doing the best I can.")
- Hope (it will get better, somehow, some day; look for positives to hang on to)
- Mindfulness (I can only do one thing at a time to do it well, you can't hold all of the things on your plate at once or you'll lose your mind, so stay in THIS MOMENT and do the one thing, then worry about the next thing.)

Compassion Fatigue Impacts Interpersonal Relationships, so manage these: 
- Boundaries (stick to them, respect them. What are your limits? How can you protect yourself?)
- Support System (This is every bit as much about who is in your circle as who is not -- figure out who is truly supportive and who is an energy vampire, to quote Infertile Phoenix...reevaluate and don't feel bad about spending time with those who encourage your better self and letting go of those who encourage you to circle the drain, learn how to express your needs and be okay with accepting support)
Openness (willingness to stretch your learning and opinions, to be willing to consider other viewpoints and alternatives)
- Empathy (See others' struggles without judgment -- ex: "She must be really having a tough time," VS "What a freaking bitch." This can be an amazing gift for others.)

Collective Healing is possible, and can look like: 
- Being a Role Model (model these things for friends, family, students, coworkers)
- Find Intention/Purpose (what drives you? What makes you keep coming back for more? What's important to you? What are your core values?)
- Practice Gratitude (Slow down and connect with what's going okay, give appreciation to people who make your days brighter, embrace those moments that are beautiful and acknowledge them.)
- Teaching About Community (What does community mean now? We can be a community even if we're not all in the same place at the same time, even if we don't see all the people all the time.)
- Loving-Kindness (This is a type of meditation, to extend compassion and care to others, to humankind, and put that out into the universe. It feeds our heart and reminds us that we're part of something bigger. 

And lastly, my favorite: 

Healing is a process. 

The Childfree-Not-By-Choice core of me let out a (silent) WAHOOOO on this point. Yes. Absolutely. It's a process, it's a step forward and a half a step back, it's neverending but not in a hopeless way, in a "constant evolution" kind of way. 

I left that presentation feeling energized, feeling like these are coping skills I have employed through my family building journey that ended child-free, sometimes more so than others, but also they are coping skills I can continue to develop and sharpen in this crappy pandemic time. 

I am committed to finding a way to survive this year with my sanity and health intact, even if it is hard and feels like a betrayal of my work ethic or passion. It's not beneficial to my passion for teaching if I suffer a nervous breakdown and can't be in the classroom. Hyperbole? Maybe. Maybe not. I have to protect myself and really practice letting go. 

Maybe this time I will be better at it. 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

We're All In The Same Ocean

 I hear a lot of people using the phrase, "We're all in the same boat," to describe this pandemic and all the things that are impacting daily life. 

Are we? Are we in the same boat? 

I say, NO. 

We're in the same OCEAN. Our boats are all different. 

Some boats are veritable destroyers, armored and able to take on whatever slams into them. 

Some boats are hand-lashed rafts made of floating garbage. 

A lot of boats are in between. 

I've written about this before, with regard to shoes. I absolutely hate the phrase "I've been in your shoes" or "Been there, done that." It applied to fertility -- even if we both are doing IVF, or both are in the adoption process, our experiences and prior traumas and personal histories are vastly different and that colors how we experience the same thing. Is the process the same? Maybe. Is the baggage we bring to it the same? NO. 

Same with COVID-19. 

I feel relatively fortunate to be in a place where I have had the choice to limit my contact with the public (takeout, grocery pickup) and our job security and economic stability has thus far been largely unaffected. Is it stressful? YES. Do I have the added stress of food insecurity, or job loss, or housing fears, or limited medical care? NO. 

This has been one of those times where I am fortunate NOT to have kids. As a teacher, I am living the most exhausting September in the history of Septembers. I am usually a hot mess who needs a lot of takeout to make it to October in September, when school starts. But this year I feel whacked by a two-by-four every damn day. I am coming home, doing my decontamination shower and scrubs-shedding (reverse order), and then promptly falling asleep on the couch for at least an hour. IT IS PRETTY MUCH INVOLUNTARY. But, because I do not have kids, I am able to come home and take a rest before getting back at the email and the planning and the feeling generally like the world is burning down. (Because the freaking world is BURNING...literally, metaphorically, politically, environmentally... I can't take the news anymore. It's all horrible.) 

My teacher friends with kids? They have this exhausting day and then go home and continue with helping their own kids with routines and work. I forget that sometimes and urged a friend to leave earlier, work can get done later. She looked up wistfully and said, "nope, not for me. I go home and start a whole new set of things to do. I have to stay or I won't get this stuff done." She has backpacks to unpack, assignments to check, dinner and bedtime routines to provide. THEN she can get more done, maybe, and get some sleep. Maybe. I forgot that our boats are different. 

Bryce also reminded me tonight that people with kids also get the benefit of HAVING THE KIDS, of having those joyous moments and milestones and happy family times that we don't have, so I shouldn't feel bad about my naps. I don't feel bad about my naps themselves. I feel bad that I forgot my boat has a hammock for after school napping and my friend has a childcare center, like a Disney Cruise (those are like a dream for some people, and sound like a freaking nightmare to me). 

It comes down to assumption. Assuming we have a commonality that we don't. Are we all doing the best we can to make it through a pandemic? Yes. Do we all have the same tools and privileges and lifeboats? NO. No, we do not. (True for pandemic, true for fertility as well.)

I know that this phrase, "We're all in this together" is supposed to bring commonality and community, but when it shifts to "we're all in the same boat," we need to stop and think. We're not. We're floating in the same ocean with horrible rogue waves and sharks and maybe a little Scylla and Charybdis thrown in, but some of us have a lot more at our disposal than others. Some of us are a lot more likely to be thrown overboard and left at the mercy of that ocean than others who have sturdier boats. 

It's good to remember that while this is a common experience, it's not experienced quite the same way for everyone. 

PS - I am drowning in school stress and work and trying to help families make sense of this hybrid thing. It's late and I should be going to bed but I needed to get this out of my head. I will get on top of this and be a better commenter soon, I promise! 

Monday, September 14, 2020

#Microblog Mondays: The Puffin Project

Back in January, we were planning out a possible trip to Scotland. We were going to see puffins as part of it, on the island of Luffa or Staffa (there's apparently multiple islands where you can walk amongst the puffins, which sounds lovely). But, much like when we went on the Puffin and Whale Watching boat in Bar Harbor one summer and it was foggy so they said to get off and get a refund if you only wanted to see puffins, it was not to be. 

Well, back in the spring I had an idea to make my own puffin sighting. I ordered a ridiculous number of stuffed puffins, including ones from Audubon that when you squeeze them make a puffin sound. It sounds like a cow, but I googled it and that is indeed what puffins sound like. My best friend sent me an extra squeezy puffin to add to my collection. I lost one to a younger sister of a student (she'd bomb the Google Meets and she liked my puffins, so at the end of the year when we did our driving parade I threw one with a name tag on it to her), and now that I've done my puffin project I can give more of them to friends with kids. Because I think I could need maybe 3 stuffed puffins, max, but not 7!

Did you know a group of puffins can be called a circus? A gathering? A burrow? A gathering? Or the very boring colony? 

Behold, the Puffin Project. I am so pleased. Bryce thinks I am freaking nuts, as does pretty much anyone who saw the video I put on Facebook without any context. But it gives me such joy and makes me laugh, and I think we can all use more joy and laughter right about now! 

New heights of weirdness, right here. 

Look! There's even some nose-rubbing!

Hey puffin buddy!

Just hanging on the cliff rocks (those are rocks below my deck)

Oh my gosh there's one on my shoulder! 

Even though these puffins are tame, you don't want them near your face. 

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy!

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Celebrating Ten Years

 I'm a little late celebrating, but Thursday was my 10 year Blogoversary. TEN! I missed it because Thursday was also the first day of school in person with the first cohort of students, so I am only now back in the realm of the living (just in time to get right back at it!). 2020 Pandemic teaching is really, really hard. And weird. 

But, that's not what this post is about! It is amazing to think of where I was ten years ago, and where I am today. So much happened in those ten years. 

My first post was September 10th, 2010. I had already done a year of medicated IUIs and was coming off my Summer of the First IVF, stunned that it failed. I'd kept our journey relatively quiet up until that point, so sure was I that we'd be successful early, but when the IVF that was supposed to be our silver bullet failed, I was left bereft and alone, and searching for community and an outlet. I was scared to share, but more scared to be alone and the chat boards were just not cutting it for me. My posts were mostly filled with hope and desperation, some jealousy, and hilariously a post titled, "Letting Go of The Plan." (That turned out to be the dragon I'd try to slay over and over and over.)

In the years to come there would be so, so many posts that were filled with hope and magical thinking. You can see the progression of my disbelief that this wasn't working out the way I'd planned paired paradoxically with the belief that if I just TRIED HARD ENOUGH, if I DID ALL THE THINGS, that I could control the outcome. 

2011 and 2012 were the years of loss. 2011 held my ectopic pregnancy that ended in emergency surgery and delayed the start of my new job, split between the middle school where I teach now and the 9th grade building. I was so insistent that I was okay that I came into the building, shuffling and in excruciating pain (Bryce carried my things for me), and my principal who is still my principal sent me home and got me a sub for the first week of school. It was both an incredibly kind and generous gesture that filled me with relief, and such a disappointment that yet another thing wasn't going how I'd envisioned it. It was the first time that I discovered support groups are great if you "graduate," but feel a little less supportive when you are stationary. 2012 was hard, hard, hard. I went into my 5th cycle after another failed attempt, and got the happy call. We had two weeks of feeling hopeful, and grateful, and like we could really see the other side of this hell. And then I miscarried. That loss was devastating because it was a lot lonelier than the ectopic, and made me feel a cumulative sorrow. I think that is when I started thinking, "oh shit. This might not work out." So we went forward with trying egg donor. I was done with mine, and the eggs are always the first culprit. It's really hard to go back and read these older posts when I know now that nothing was going to work, that my uterus was ultimately the culprit but it was an invisible culprit until they removed it last year. These were very, very sad years and the hardest of the IVF years. I did get nominated for a RESOLVE Hope Award for Best Blog, which was exciting (I didn't win, but it was sure amazing to be nominated). So many of my posts from this year are traumatic. I loved revisiting this one, because it still makes me laugh: I'm Glad I'm Not A Salmon.

Ah, 2013, the year of Egg Donor IVF. Spoiler alert: It did not work. I think you can see the magical thinking really going into an unhealthy place in this post about making a new plan. (See? I said I was "letting go of the plan" 3 years earlier, but the plan kept pulling me back in!) I could NOT believe that Donor Egg IVF didn't work, especially when we had a "proven donor" and I did all the things. This was the year where I realized that my time with IVF wasn't enjoyable and wasn't sustainable, and reminded me of other highly unpleasant experiences in my life. It was also the year we were like, "Um, this isn't working, but instead of moving forward and away from this shitshow, instead of listening to a doctor who started to suggest maybe this wasn't going to work for us after all, we're going to hightail it to second opinions and people who will tell us what we want to hear and give us that feeling of hope." In that sentence you should replace "we" with "I'm" because at this point I was driving the boat straight into an iceberg. I was wearing the pants and the pants were poisonous. But the seed of "maybe another path will be better" was planted. 

2014 was a shit, shit year. (Sensing a theme?) We went to a new clinic and while there was a valiant effort to try to make things work a) I was tired, b) the clinic was in Buffalo and an hour away in good weather, which was in short supply, and c) my body ended up frantically waving the white flag and when it was ignored, it lay face down on the bloody battleground. At the end of this year we decided to pursue domestic infant adoption, but the damage had been done. I didn't know it, but the stamina and reserves of emotional strength were very very low, and the cumulative trauma was very very high, and it was setting the stage for our disastrous run with adoption that lasted two years and ended in an autoimmune flare in my eye, an insanely high regimen of prednisone, and a breakdown.  But this year was also memorable, and I learned a few things. 1) I know my body, and woe to those who do not listen to me when I suggest that the plan in store is likely going to have bad results. 2) I had the capacity to be even more disciplined than I had been, and put myself in Egg Boot Camp, as we were using my eggs and half Bryce/half donor sperm for this year. I did a lot of extra things (spoiler, didn't work). I had a receptivity test that felt like a vegetable peeler going at it in my uterus (WITHOUT ANY ANESTHESIA), that didn't seem to show anything, but then I had a hysteroscopy (my 4th I think?) that resulted in findings of Asherman's scarring. And this is when I started buying my first adoption books. Because not so deep down, I knew this was no longer going to work. Oh, PS, this was the year there was a freak 7 feet of snow lake effect event in Buffalo, and while it didn't dump that much where my clinic was, it did shut down the thruway and make my drive two hours one way, not one. I did more than a few white-knuckled drives on the thruway this year, often in a lot of discomfort due to giant ovaries. Good times. 

2015. The devastating end of our IVF journey, and the hopeful start of our adoption journey. We were ALL IN! We were so hopeful! We were all, "It's not IF, it's WHEN!" We didn't realize that it would be harder emotionally than IVF. That cumulative trauma again. But the first year was embracing this new reality, was simultaneously putting our frozen embryos into Embryo Adoption, and having no profile opportunities but also having the sense that 2016 was going to be THE YEAR. We ended the year with so much hope for our FutureBaby. We had an Adoption Photo Shoot to show we were "expecting." I feel like this was the first positive year we'd had in a long, long time. I just want to hug the us in those pictures and keep them safe from what was to come. 

2016. Well, the profile calls started coming in, which was super exciting. But the answer was always no. Except once in July when we were chosen in a blind profile (we didn't know we were being considered) that ended before we even knew it was a hope -- the expectant mother chose to parent, but we didn't know much about it and took it more like, "hey, someone finally PICKED US!" We did start to get holes in our confidence, though. Why weren't people picking us? What was wrong with our life? Why was our homestudy social worker asking us in our renewal process what our thoughts were if this DIDN'T work out for us? Why were others who were in the process finding success and we were still left behind? Why were we ALWAYS LEFT BEHIND? This was a year that tested us, because Bryce and I were in different places with adoption, and my magical thinking made a comeback of epic proportions. The desperation meter was at an all time high. The "No-Thank-Yous" got harder to take. We did have a baby shower this year (two actually), and we set up our nursery so that we could be ready at a moment's notice. My favorite post from this year was this one: "I Want to See My Story." We felt so alone in our experience. I think it was towards the end of this year that I started to think about what it would look like to resolve child-free. We did do a tongue-in-cheek Second Waiting Adoption Shoot, which made me laugh and also spoke to our feeling of "okay, any time now..." So while we were struggling, we were also having a good time. Which is the story of our marriage, actually. 

2017. This was the tipping point, the absolutely terrible year. This was the year where none of our embryos made it with the couple who adopted them, this was the year where we went to sleep thinking we might be parents in the morning and then got a call at school that we weren't chosen after all and it broke me but I pretended to be okay and resilient and get back up again, LITERALLY when I hurt my elbow at a school ice-skating trip. It was a year of weird health issues, culminating in my scleritis attack in my eye that the Eye Institute at my local hospital said "could be caused by significant stress" and I just laughed, and laughed, and laughed, and then cried. After a spectacular week of awfulness, and a two week break from school because I wasn't functioning anymore, we decided to end our adoption journey. Which was the hardest thing we've ever done. To make that choice and have to say we can't do this anymore felt like the worst kind of failure. But Bryce called, and we did it. Oh wait, the hardest thing is tied with dismantling a nursery and packing it up in two cars to donate it. Yeah, that sucked. But the year ended with a beautiful trip to California, a "honeymoon" of sorts since we didn't take one, instead starting full force into infertility treatments. It ended with a lot of work, a lot of sadness, but also a lot of hope that finally we could have a life that wasn't predicated on waiting for a life to begin, but LIVING in the one we have. It was freeing. (But also really really hard and the sadness came in waves over and over every time I thought I was okay. I had to learn to be okay with not being okay.) 

But now, I have THREE YEARS of resolution under my belt. 

2018 - we bought a new house and said goodbye to the house that held all those years of pain. WE LOVE THIS NEW HOUSE. It was super symbolic, and a major part of the healing. It almost feels like it waited for us. There is no room in this house that was meant for something else. It fits our life NOW. 

2019 - I had a hysterectomy, which was hard to recover from but also insanely freeing and I was so glad to be rid of that organ of doom. I also got some answers: I had adenomyosis and my uterus likely wouldn't have successfully carried a baby, which was hard because it meant it was all for nothing, but also a relief because there was a sense of the WHY we were missing. We celebrated ten years of marriage, and creating a new life that we love. 

And then 2020...well, we all know that 2020 is a suckfest. But, I can say that you know you have a great marriage when the quarantining and lockdowning just cements that you truly love the one you're with and could pretty much be the last two people on Earth and that would be okay. In a way all this hoping for life to be one way and getting something totally different and unexpected really trained us for a global pandemic

Ten years. So, so much pain, but also so much joy. And strength. And resilience, even when it felt like that wasn't at all what we were doing. We have endured so much, and it's not to say that now everything is amazing and we're not impacted by the immense grief of all we lost. That is always a part of us, but it's not the CENTRAL part of us anymore. It's such a gift, to have most days spent feeling fortunate for the life we have now and not wishing and striving for something different. It took a long time to get here, and it's a continuous journey. I'm so grateful to have you with me -- the community through blogging has been a lifesaver. In a pretty literal sense, at times. I was helped so much by reading the blogs of others who came before me in making these difficult choices from situations that weren't our choice. To see that a life without children didn't have to be the horror story, the bad ending. They were the light guiding me to a place of acceptance and even joy. I can only hope to be the same for someone else. Thank you for sticking with me (or discovering me) during these ten years! 

Pin by Caroline Nastasi on Quotes in 2020 | Told you so, Overcoming, Survival  guide

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

State Fair Cow

I hate going to my physical. HATE IT. I had one yesterday, and while I walked away with a flu shot (huzzah, need all the protection I can get, but ooof it was vicious and my arm is STILL sore), I also walked away with a little less of my dignity.

One of lasting gifts of infertility is a constant battle with my BMI. I hate the concept of BMI on a good day, I don't think it takes into account different body shapes and types and muscle vs fat and the fact that some people carry quite a bit of poundage in their bras, but mine has been at an embarrassingly high number for a couple of years. It's crazy to me that my BMI calls me obese. My doctor says that it would be less concerning if I carried my weight in my hips, thighs, or butt. That would be okay. But, true to my PCOS diagnosis, I carry it mostly in my torso. In my belly, in my waistline, in my bra. It's heart attack weight. And, thanks to PCOS, I am more likely to have one of those. 

The last time I had a follow-up in the early spring, I was sure that the scale would tell me a pleasant story. It didn't. The scale was cruel and I burst into tears before I even stepped off and back into my shoes. It put me in a funk for days. See, when we moved the scale stayed in the garage, battery dead, and I was like "I don't need that devil contraption!" 

But after yesterday, I'm thinking maybe I do, because I was once again unpleasantly surprised. 

I didn't cry this time, though. Because I'm pissed more than anything. 

I did tell my primary care physician that I feel like a state fair cow when I come to these appointments, that I have a weigh in and I am just getting beefier, which wins a ribbon for a cow but not so much as a consolation prize for a 44 year old woman. 

It infuriates me, because I am doing my Pilates and barre classes, up to 3 times per week, and walking at a good clip for at least 3 miles, nearly daily: thwarted only by rain or insanely hot temperatures, and even then we usually put our reflective Moon Sashes on that I got Bryce for Christmas, because I am obsessed with safety and don't want to get run over walking in a country road area with no sidewalks and limited shoulders in the dark. It's not like I'm languishing on the couch, wolfing down ice cream from the tub and eating crap. 

The last time I was in my doctor's office he suggested I try aggressive portion control, and recommended a book: Finally Full, Finally Slim. I decided that I could work on portion control without buying a book that sounded so insanely insulting. 

But, I refuse to eat like a baby rabbit. I enjoy food, I enjoy cooking and reaping the benefits of Bryce's insanely good cooking. He tends to specialize in the amazingly delicious and yet amazingly caloric foods: duck! pasta carbonara! dry aged steak and potato gratin! completely delicious Indian dishes drenched in butter and cream! I do eat smaller portions of it, but I am not giving up that simple pleasure.

I am also really proud of my progress in Pilates and the strength and flexibility of my body -- I may be heavier by the minute, but my instructor said it's entirely possible that it is partially muscle, because I am so much stronger than I was to start. I have the back thigh muscles now (otherwise known as hamstrings). I can do deep squats, like the malasana pose in yoga that eluded me for years. I can do push-ups. I have really good flexibility and balance. My stamina and endurance has grown, and when we go for walks I can go up hills without stopping to catch my breath or even slowing down. 

The idea of "slim" being the benchmark, instead of "strong" or "healthy," drives me nuts. I get that I could probably stand to lose anywhere from 10-20 pounds. But I hate feeling like I'm going to weigh-ins, and like the number on that sliding horror just keeps pushing to the right, to the right, to the right. 

My doctor didn't give me a hard time yesterday. He said it sounded like I was doing all the right things, and just to be mindful about my habits. I did go home and eat the world's saddest grilled cheese sandwich for lunch... one piece of Canyon Bakehouse heritage bread cut in half, like a little tea sandwich dipped in applesauce, so I guess it did bother me a little. 

But then today I went to my outdoor mobile Pilates class on the reformer, and I felt strong. And (more) flexible. I saw my quad muscles flexing as I did the One Hundred, and admired the curve of my bicep. I laughed and collapsed into the well of the reformer while doing side sit-ups, because apparently my obliques need some attention, but overall I left the class feeling great about my body. About what it can do. About what it is, not what I keep halfheartedly trying to corral it into being. : balanced body Studio Reformer, Pilates Exercise Equipment with  Classic Foot Bar : Pilates Reformers : Sports & Outdoors
This torturous looking device is a is a wonder filled with springs and a gliding carriage

I am curvy. I am strong. I am healthy. I have some killer muscles under a layer of duck and potatoes gratin. That should be enough. It is so much easier to see and bemoan the flaws than to celebrate the strengths. I do not deserve to be judged like a state fair cow, especially since the number one judge is myself. I deserve to be seen as my own kind of healthy body, my own kind of beautiful. We all deserve that from ourselves, if not others. 

Me at an outdoor Wunda Chair class (cropping the other two people out for privacy).
Strong legs! Great posture! Squishy belly! :)

Monday, August 31, 2020

#Microblog Monday: Bad Dream

Sometimes you wake from a dream and it colors the whole rest of your day, maybe even longer than that. 

The other day I had a dream that I was pregnant. 

Even my dream consciousness knew how unlikely this was, so I wasn't pregnant in my nonexistent uterus, I was pregnant in my right ovary. In the dream world this was possibly viable, and not an ectopic situation. 

I thought, huh...where will we put this baby? I thought this was behind me, but now a strange possibility is growing in an unusual place, so can we convert the craft room/guest room into a nursery? Can we fit this baby into our babyless, childless life that we've so carefully and lovingly crafted from the ruins of the dreams we once chased so voraciously? 

I didn't have to worry for long. 

I started to feel cramping in my right ovary, and in my dream I thought, "ah. I know this feeling. I'm sorry, little ovary baby, I'm not good at hanging on to things like you." 

For the rest of the dream I was losing, not losing, possibly losing, probably losing the improbable baby. 

I woke up unsurprisingly unsettled, and also with a fresh sense of sadness for what we lost in the Before, and with a pain in my right ovary that I'm hoping isn't some horrible harbinger of something else growing that wants to destroy me (I have an irrational/rational fear of ovarian cancer after all the hormonal manipulation I endured that never resulted in a second trimester). 

I blame it on August. I lost both my babies in August, although now 9 and 8 years ago, in what feels like another lifetime, but also an alternate world that sometimes pokes its head through to remind me that really isn't that long ago. 

This dream is haunting me still...maybe in writing it out I can exorcise it. 

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy!