Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Surviving Failure, Redefining Success

One of the things that frustrated me most about my infertility struggles was the insistence that it WOULD work out, that it COULD work out (insert all the many examples of improbable pregnancies and births here, followed by miracle adoption stories), that if I just HUNG IN THERE that all would be revealed and I'd get to be the mother I was clearly meant to be.

These encouragements are lovely in theory, usually given by practitioners and people who have succeeded ahead of you. They've seen it happen! Don't give up! You just need to stay in the game! But are they lovely, REALLY? Are they as helpful as they seem initially?

I was reminded of this by Risa's post on Moving Forward After Failure, and rather than tell my own story of surviving loss of many kinds in her comments, I decided to write my own post on the topic.

Because my story is filled with failure. After failure. After failure. Exponential failure. Loss after loss. But I survived it, and while my outcome wasn't what I dreamed of initially and by all accounts I failed MISERABLY throughout the whole process of trying to become a parent, I did succeed in other ways. I succeeded by not succumbing to my failure, by learning how not to internalize it, by redefining what "success" means for myself. 

A Series of Unfortunate Events
From the beginning we were told that we should just start with IVF, but that just seemed so DRASTIC, like starting swimming lessons with a cliff dive.  So we eased in with clomid, and then injectible IUIs, and I learned that yeah -- IVF was our best option. My PCOS revealed itself in all its glory -- I was capable of making a LOT of follicles, given a higher dose. Our sperm counts were pretty dismal for IUI, but perfectly reasonable for IVF. So we plunged. 

Given all the encouragement for IVF, given all the stories on TTC chatboards and forums, I fully expected that I would get pregnant from my first cycle and have some frozen embryos left over for a sibling. So it was shocking when I didn't have any frozen embryos, when only a couple survived to day three, and then the two that were transferred weren't amazing. And it failed. I was stunned. Each phone call was another whittling of my hope -- first not a lot of eggs were mature, then not a lot fertilized, then none were going to be frozen, then the ones that were left were okay. And then, of course, the "I'm sorry, it's negative" call that immediately schedules your next cycle. 

That was when I started going to a support group, that was when I started this blog, that was when I realized, hmmm. This is going to be harder than I thought

The next cycle had the whittling too, despite all the yoga and the acupuncture and the visualizing. It didn't work, either. 

So we switched doctors at the clinic, and switched protocols from PCOS-based to an egg quality focus, with much better results -- we had frozens! And I got a call, although not quite the one I'd wanted -- "I'm sorry, it's positive but it's very low." Ah, a caveat. I spent two and a half weeks hoping against hope that this was just a rough-and-tumble beginning to our family story, and then it all ended when the fancy 3D ultrasound machine showed that my baby was more like a tumor that was trying to end me. That was hard to move forward from, because the physical pain was so great in recovery and the craziness of it all just enveloped everything. BUT, I had hope for the next cycle, because my doctor had said that this showed I could actually get pregnant. It was possible. 

Except when we did our next cycle in December, with frozen blasts, it didn't work. I examined everything I could have possibly done to cause this -- had I microwaved things in plastic? Had I microwaved food at all? Was it the nonorganic spinach in the chickpea stew? Was it the gut-wrenching crying during the wait because I'd had to put my cat to sleep? I was in a terrible state of grief. What if that was all I got, just a weird surgical end to a brief pregnancy that could never be a baby? I threw myself into another cycle right away, and upped all the supplements and acupuncture and meditation and yoga and wheatgrass and candle lighting and onesie-buying. 

The next fresh cycle didn't work. But it did make frozens. Which made it easier to take the horrible disappointment of another failure, because a new opportunity could be had faster, cheaper, easier on my body. Maybe THIS would be our chance. 

And it was -- we got a personal call from my doctor (the first one, as the second one had left for another practice) on a Saturday morning to tell me that I was PREGNANT, and the numbers were good (although later I realized they still weren't super robust), and it was CELEBRATION TIME! Celebrate we did, because I was going to milk this pregnancy for every single nanosecond. I was thrilled, for two whole weeks. 

But then I began cramping in the parking lot of my grandmother's assisted living apartment complex, and I ignored it because it was just expansion, it HAD to be, because this was IT, this was the moment we'd been waiting for, and NOTHING bad could happen because I'd done everything so very right this time. Except a trip to the bathroom revealed that I was actually bleeding, and the cramping was harder to ignore, and I had to tell my grandmother that I was both pregnant and likely miscarrying all in one hysterical, apologetic breath as I rushed to the clinic without an appointment, after their phone system was done for the day but before everyone had left, and begged for help. I saw a tiny sac, which gave everyone hope, and I was put on bed rest and kept my hips above my nose as much as I could until I got the call that my bloodwork had gone down 2000 points (so abrupt that we repeated it, because maybe it was an error! Maybe a rushed tech had left a zero off!). It was over. 

I didn't know how to recover from that one. It was the worst pain I'd felt at that point in things. I'd been so close, and now it was gone. What if this wasn't going to happen? What if I was irreparably broken? A friend stopped by to drop off orchid food and heard me keening on the couch. I went back and forth between animal sobbing/gulping and complete numbness, staring at the air between me and other objects and trying to figure out how I would ever get past this. I was a mess, but that was expected. I was shocked that we could get so close and then lose it so quickly. 

But, I dealt with it by pushing myself forward. Something had to change. I was NOT going to give in so easily. The NEXT one would work, particularly because I was going to pursue egg donor. It couldn't go wrong, my mid-thirties eggs would be out of the picture and we'd be sure to see success. I threw myself into all the preparations, and I asked people who'd been successful with egg donor what their protocols were, and I took all the advice and I even did progesterone in oil shots twice per day, resulting in permanent nerve damage and having to take the shots in my thigh, and still... a fresh and a frozen cycle failed. FAILED. I felt like a failure. I felt like there was no way this could be happening. Family and close friends began to ask us, "when do you decide to stop? Maybe it's time." But the fertility world was all about KEEP GOING AND DON'T GIVE UP! YOU'RE SO CLOSE! And I listened to that siren song, I listened to tales of people getting pregnant on their 11th cycle with their last frozen embryo or finally getting pregnant after 8 years of trying because of washing out their uterus with a chemotherapy drug, or sperm donor being the trick, or donated embryos being the trick... there was always a trick. And I WANTED there to be a trick. I NEEDED to throw myself into all possible options. I HAD to have a baby, and was willing to do nearly anything to have one. 

So we reevaluated. We had already gone to an adoption seminar at an agency that made it sound impossible and listed all the things that counted as red flags (and we had a zillion of them), and we felt that we would never be placed with a baby given that doom and gloom presentation, so assisted reproduction was going to have to be our path. Egg donor hadn't done it. So we got a bunch of second opinions, and everyone said that it was likely then the sperm, or maybe even my uterus. Clearly it wasn't my eggs, because egg donor hadn't fixed it. 

We went to the clinic our second doctor left for, and did all kinds of crazy things. I had more hysteroscopies. I had biopsies. I had the horrible Beta 3 Integrin test, that was like having someone run a vegetable peeler down my uterus while I was FULLY AWAKE AND UNSEDATED, and it revealed...nothing. Apparently my endometrium was perfectly receptive. My first cycle ended up cancelled -- my estrogen went way too high and when they tried to dial it back it crashed. But the second cycle was great and we ended up with blasts from our own material -- but it didn't work. Which was very sad and awful, but we had frozens with donor sperm so that was something to look forward to. And then THAT didn't work (or maybe it did briefly, as I did a home pee stick and it showed a faint line that then disappeared -- was it evaporation, or was it a brief chemical? I don't know but the result was the same). 

This is when the failure really hit me hard. Clearly SOMETHING was wrong, and we couldn't figure it out, and I was tired, so so so tired of making this the central thing in my life. I had experienced ten transfers, 27 embryos had come and gone, and I just felt like a physical embodiment of failure. I tried so many things, and here I was, at the end of the options, with no one giving me a straight answer about WHY, and my heart just wasn't in it anymore. I couldn't bear to keep doing this. I knew the end was nigh. 

So we decided to transfer our frozens, 2PNs from the egg donor cycle first, then the two blasts from sperm donor. Then we could be done. And then my cycles were canceled, TWICE, and I lay crying on the table, after white-knuckling a drive through a freaking blizzard to get to Buffalo for an ultrasound, and I just kept saying "I...can't...DO THIS...ANYMOOOOOOORE" through my sobs. I felt abused. I felt brutally emptied from the inside out, physically and spiritually. I just couldn't give it any more. 

Moving Forward, Away from Infertility Treatment
So we moved forward to adoption, with so much hope in our hearts that it would be different. We joked that we'd slowly shed ties to genetic material throughout our journey, so we were utterly prepared to decide to raise a child who had zero genetic ties to us, and who we did not gestate. We researched. We completed all the homestudy requirements. We soul searched. We gave ourselves fully to this process, which took my body completely out of the equation and instead took up space in a binder, in a somewhat unhealthy relationship with the phone, and in our emotional well-being. 

I had talked to other people who were successful before us, and they received profile calls within a couple months, and then received them regularly. 

We received none in six months. None? How could we receive none? We'd made a book that we were insanely proud of. We'd been told it was great. How could NO ONE find us appealing? It was a terrible feeling. Instead of examining what I'd eaten, what I'd done to nurture my body, what physical activity might have been too strenuous, I examined OUR LIFE. Did we not have enough friends with young children? I felt funny about asking people for photos of me with their kids, like I was using them as marketing material (I was), and so I didn't pursue that as much as I could have. Were we too old? We didn't look old, but we were in our 40s, having spent the bulk of our 30s trying to get pregnant and failing. Had we waited too long? Were we too boring? Not religious enough at all? Was our house not child-friendly enough? Were our families too devoid of small children, of future cousins to play with? What WAS it that made us get passed over? 

Then we had our first profile call, and it was exciting to be in a position to actually, possibly, be matched and off on our way to a placement. She was due in May, and they wanted the couple chosen to attend appointments, and the situation sounded pretty good -- it wasn't financially driven, which was something that made us feel very, very icky. They were getting their lives together after personal hardship and it wasn't the right time, but they wanted an open adoption, and it sounded like a great situation. But we weren't picked. Which was okay, because now I felt like we'd had an opportunity, of course the first one wouldn't work out, we were realistic, and this was SO MUCH BETTER than infertility treatment! 

But then the next profile opportunity threw me for an utter loop. It was a somewhat last-minute situation, she was due in just a couple weeks, and it had been a blind profile where she was deciding between just a couple books, and ours was one of them. It was a boy, they said. I spent a lot of time in the nursery, holding the blue onesies in my hands, staring down into the empty crib (that sometimes held a cat) and imagining this little boy asleep in that space. I could almost see the indent in the mattress. I visualized it, I meditated on it, and I was like, THIS IS IT. We are going to be parents.

She didn't choose us. It was close, which actually hurt more to hear, but we didn't make the cut. I was gutted. We cried as if we had lost a baby ourselves, which it felt as though we had -- we could envision how our lives would change in such a short time, and we were ready to bring that baby into our home and could SEE that alternate future, and then POOF, it was gone. It echoed every loss we'd sustained up to that point, but in a way it was harder because I DIDN'T do anything that resulted in my two pregnancy losses, it was totally inexplicable and a mystery of nature, but this was someone actively NOT choosing us to parent her child. (In the end it turned out that the situation became fraught and involved the courts and was very sad for everyone involved, so we were glad it didn't work out in retrospect, but still.)

I think that was the first time when we realized that perhaps all of the grief and loss of the infertility treatment leg of our journey was going to make this leg even harder, and maybe it wouldn't work out as we'd hoped.

That profile opportunity was followed by one that was so not right for us on so many levels, again highlighting the complexity of just the DECISIONS related to the adoption process, and we said no, which was hard but necessary. Then summer came and we had to renew our homestudy, and it felt not nearly as hopeful as the first time when we were so filled with hope that THIS WAS OUR PATHWAY to parenthood and it would all be great. Our social worker asked us what we would do if it didn't work out for us, and instead of answering in a way that was purely positive but not at all believing that that could happen, we had a realistic answer and realized that we had a GOOD answer, that our life really was good as is and maybe if it didn't work out it would be okay. More than okay.

Then the second year of being active for adoption was just awful. We were actually picked in a blind profile but the opportunity vanished as quickly as it had become a possibility, and we were notified a month or so later so it wasn't quite the disembowelment it could have been. But then... SILENCE. Nothing again, not a single call or opportunity until January.

I'm not sure which was worse, the complete silence and feeling that we were either a) not on the radar or b) so undesirable that we just would never get picked. It does a number on your self-worth to be in this space. We looked into private adoption, and quickly nixed it as it seemed even more emotionally draining, possibly opening us up to scammers or horrible people who would call just to tell us we were baby stealers, and it just seemed...predatory. I was not comfortable with it at all. But then, January came with a situation where the baby was born yesterday and we were one of a handful of books in play where we'd need to go pick the baby up tomorrow if chosen, and it seemed SO PROMISING. But the quick turnoround between "tomorrow we could be parents!" and "you weren't chosen" broke me. I had to go home from school to sob in private, because I just could not hold myself together anymore at my job. And then February saw a blind profile where the expectant mom was in labor, and we were again not chosen, and I wouldn't have even known about it had I not called with a question about adoption attorneys, and I felt like my soul had just been chipped away to the point of being a broken splinter of a thing.

And then I had my autoimmune eye issue, the prednisone megadose, the side effects mimicking a heart attack, and my breakdown at school.

The End
That is when we ended our parenting journey, that string of failures and disappointments and losses that had finally passed the tipping point of Shit We Could Handle. We ended before our homestudy end date, because we just couldn't handle another call that would NOT be for us, and I was not in a place where I felt my mental health was robust enough to say yes to an opportunity if it came in those last two months, because even a yes is fraught with complexity, and ethical quagmires, and uncertainty, and stress, and the possibility of loss. We just couldn't do it anymore. We'd been so steeped in "It's not IF, it's WHEN!" and all the adoption-related encouragements of "The Waiting is the Hardest Part!" and "Just hang in there, you can't get chosen if you're not in the game!"

But the game was not-so-slowly killing us, me in ways that were clearly manifested and noticeable, and Bryce in ways that he felt he had to hide for my sake, and we were risking the life we KNEW we could have, the life we DID have, for one that may well never have truly materialized.

We were spent, and it was time to wave the white flag and say, "You know, we had a good run."

Recovering from Failure, Rediscovering Hope
It was hard, so hard to feel like I'd given up. Like I'd quit, like I wasn't strong enough, like I didn't have enough chutzpah to be worthy of the motherhood I'd so wanted.

But those are lies.

I was STRONG, because I was walking away from something that I'd wanted so badly, but that had turned downright abusive and was just slamming me into the ground and kicking me in the head.

I was CHOOSING a different life, instead of letting things happen passively. Bryce made this point when the choice was to let our homestudy run out, or end it two months early. He argued that ending it early was empowering, was saying WE ARE DONE WITH LETTING THE UNIVERSE BEAT US UP ON ITS OWN TIME, WE ARE GOING TO TAKE CONTROL AND SAY NO MORE TO THIS BULLSHIT! Bryce is very wise. It WAS empowering.

I was REDEFINING my life -- motherhood had taken up such a large space and had proven unattainable, and I had to figure out who I was if I wasn't going to be a mother. And I was NOT going to be a sad sap. I was going to live the bejeezus out of the life we had, as is, without all the striving and pushing and wheedling something to come that after 8 years just wasn't going to.

I was LETTING GO of the idea that if we'd just hung on, we'd have our child. That IF we'd stayed in the game, we would have "won" and had the living, breathing baby in our nursery, had the floor strewn with board books and play mats, had the holiday card we'd been hoping for, had the tearful shots of us with the baby, holding him or her for the first time, incredulous at our amazing fortune. WHAT IF is destructive. You can go down a whole slew of rabbit holes searching for the alternate pathways that MIGHT have happened IF you made a different choice, IF you waited longer, IF you went with a different agency or type of adoption, IF you'd gone to a different clinic sooner, IF you'd gotten second opinions sooner, IF you'd met your husband earlier in life, IF you'd known that you were infertile when you were younger... NONE OF THAT is helpful. None. For the same reason that hanging on to IVF well past when it was useful because someone got pregnant with their last embryo on their 13th cycle or whatnot was not healthy, so was staying in adoption when it was absolutely clear that we had gone into it already battered, that we were pushing ourselves down a path that at times made us uncomfortable, and that we were simply spent.

I was ACCEPTING that it is okay to say NO. To quit, to give up, to accept the failure we experienced in becoming parents, so that we could thrive, move forward, and start a new life that is decidedly less self-destructive. This acceptance is hard. This acceptance takes work. It means cutting up your "Never Never Never Give Up" fridge magnet into the fangs it is, because that trope is HARMFUL. It is excellent to have perseverance. It is excellent to go for your dreams. It is not excellent to let your dream be a freight train that you are chained to so that you are dragged behind it, a bloody pulpy mess. There is a time when letting go is the best thing. And you have to do it in the face of people who will mourn your inability to stay in the game, who will judge you for "giving up," who will throw a million other methods you might try (but have zero endurance left for) because it is just TOO SAD that you will never be parents.

I was ADVOCATING for the fact that only YOU can make the choice that is right for you, and frankly, no one else's opinions matter. That may sound harsh, but it is incredibly difficult to face the onslaught of people who cannot accept that you are not going to parent, who cannot accept this new reality as something POSITIVE and EMPOWERING. People wanted me to know that I was still young, that I could get pregnant accidentally, they knew people that happened to. I feel a compulsion to retort that I actually don't have a uterine lining anymore, but also only had one tube and our sperm count was super low, so that was likely never going to happen, and besides -- we'd let that possibility go. At this point, we do not WANT some "miracle baby" to arrive because we are resolved, we are happy, we have done so much work to love where we are. I want people to know that resolving childfree is not a tragedy. The path to get there can be, but when you are resolved, in my opinion at least, you have reached a point where you accept where you are and vow to live it to your best ability. As is. And it is difficult when others don't understand this because they can't imagine life without their children, and so see your life as less-than. My life is not less worthy because I don't parent. My life is not worse or better because I don't have kids, it's just different. For the things I lose out on, I gain in other opportunities I wouldn't have if I did have kids.

I'm not saying that I consider myself "recovered." I'm not. I think it's an ongoing process, one that will last in some way for all of my days. I am in a much better place now than a year ago, when I was grappling with the fact that my vision of my future life had forever changed. It's a balance between the sadness of what was lost, and the joys of what is gained by no longer living in limbo, by finding a new purpose in the days ahead. We truly appreciate the moments we have together, after surviving so much grief and loss and turmoil. It can be a fancy dinner out on a Thursday, or a quiet night in reading on our new living room chairs in the quiet with cats on our laps and classical music playing in the background. It can be a two week vacation to the coast of California, or a day with an impromptu 11 mile hike. We have been through so much, and surviving it all with a marriage stronger than we started with is an accomplishment we're proud of.

Failure is difficult but it teaches you of what you're capable of, and makes you reevaluate your priorities. I feel that a true failure would have been continuing to chase down motherhood at personal risk to my health, relationship, overall well-being, sense of self... that would have been awful. I will never understand why NONE of the avenues we tried worked for us. I will never understand HOW we got here, but I am so grateful to be here, on the other side of infertility. I am glad to be done with the struggle, to know that it can work out even if it's not how I'd hoped, that I can live a fulfilling life despite all the difficulties we faced and possibly BECAUSE of surviving all that loss. I am different person now than I was in 2009 when this all started.

I survived failure, I redefined what success meant for me, and it took work and reflection and a lot of support, but IT IS POSSIBLE. It is a work in progress. I am proud of what I've accomplished. I'm proud of letting go in a society that values hanging on at personal cost.

I hope that telling this story gives hope to those who are in the thick of it, who are struggling with choices and losses and a sense of overwhelming failure and batterment. It is not permanent. There are many ways to resolve. You can survive failure and consider yourself a resounding success even if you do not end up with a child. Sometimes letting go and moving forward with life as it is is the best possible option for your sanity, your health, your overall quality of life.


Monday, August 13, 2018

#Microblog Mondays: How We Take Pictures

I was shocked by the sudden death of a friend from school last Thursday -- it was totally unexpected, and he was only 42. It prompted me to go through my photo albums and the very un-archival hiking boot box that houses a host of prints from the 1990s and 2000s.

I found pictures from the prom (he was my date), from our senior class trip, and that was about it. There's more in our yearbook, but in going through all of the photos I realized how much how we take pictures has changed with the advent of the smartphone.

The box is filled with pictures with fingers, fuzzy pictures, over- or under-exposed shots...there's a lot of crap photos in there, because you didn't see them until they were developed. You could totally prank someone with this delayed gratification aspect of film development (the Mister Rogers movie includes a great story of such a prank). Most of the pictures are also of events, of trips or milestones or visits. There were a couple exceptions, pictures of my dorm rooms in college and pictures of my best friend's first apartment, but otherwise the photos all chronicled something concrete, like a graduation, or a trip to the shore.

It's so different now.

Now we are able to chronicle everyday aspects of our lives, because there IS NO LIMIT to the pictures we can take and distribute digitally. I don't have any pictures with fingers in them, or fuzzy pictures, or accidental foot-or-lap pictures that survive, because when I see them on my Google Photos app, I delete them. And usually I see them right after I've taken them, so I get to have a do-over. And that's lovely but also kind of depressing, that we can so carefully curate our paparazzi'd lives with this technology. Don't like the chins? Take another picture and delete that hideous beast. I guess the only exception to this is other people's pictures of you -- the ones that you're tagged in and would never have made your camera roll on your own phone but show up awkwardly on social media.

Initially it made me sad, because I have all these memories of my friend and goofiness in the halls at school and in choir, and bell choir, and behind the stage at musicals...and there is very little photographic evidence of those candid moments. At the same time, it makes the handful of pictures I DO have that much more precious.

It fills me with the urge to print out more of my zillions of pictures of my everyday life, like a yearbook each year of our (entirely fingerless) moments, for us to look back on and hold in our laps and have in our possession before someone passes away.

Rest in peace, my friend. 

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

Monday, August 6, 2018

#Microblog Mondays: Firsts

August is here, and it's the beginning of the back-to-school anxiety in earnest. I have to get in and set up my classroom (I already moved furniture, but I didn't unpack anything); I have to start planning for the social studies class I'm teaching in the 12:1:1 program, I have to make copies and do my professional development reading and IEP reviewing and all the things that I fear I am running out of time to do, and it's only August 6th.

August is also my month of losses. It's when I had the ectopic. It's when I had the miscarriage. In fact, TODAY is the day I found out that my sac was no more, that my numbers were definitely down and there was nobody home in my life-sucking uterus. I didn't clue into this until that stupid "On This Day" feature on social media alerted me to a vague post about bad things happening to good people and I realized, Oh, yeah, that was 6 years ago today. SIX YEARS. Unbelievable.

But that's a first -- I am not as clued in to the exact dates of those horrible days anymore, and it made me sad when I saw it but then I also thought, holy shit I'm so glad we're done with all that. And I moved on with my evening, without the appearance of a single tear.

I also survived my first flights by myself in around ten years, so huzzah for adulting. I managed to make it through my flights without too much heavy breathing and white knuckling, and my last flight last night was not even close to full and there was NO ONE next to me at all in the entire row AND no one behind me. It was a lovely gift to close out a lovely five days with my friend.

And, tonight I flipped my dog in Buti Yoga, for the very first time (under pressure, at least).

I'm kicking ass and taking names. It makes me feel good that while I am definitely still grappling with the grief of never parenting, I am moving forward -- pushing myself to do things because I'll enjoy them, even though they scare me.

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


Tuesday, July 31, 2018

I HATE FLYING

I don't know when it happened, exactly (oh, probably not long after 9/11), but I absolutely hate flying. I would rather drive for days than fly, which is not logical whatsoever because it's far more likely that you'll have a terrible car accident than have a terrible plane accident. Maybe it's a control thing -- I am driving the car, I have this illusion that I have the power to avoid horrible things, and although there's a lot more vehicular accidents I would bet a lot more people survive car accidents whereas a plane accident? That's usually a tragedy of terrifying scale. 

I used to fly frequently to visit my dad, a big transcontinental flight from NYC to LA every year. But that was when there were fewer restrictions on your liquids, and shoes, and carry-on items (I mean, I brought my VIOLIN with me with minimal stress) and checking baggage wasn't a sign of weakness. 

But now I hate it, and I am heading into my first solo flight in over ten years to go visit a longtime friend in Nashville...tomorrow. The last time I flew solo was actually to go visit her in Brooklyn when I was first dating Bryce. I flew JetBlue and it was a gloriously short direct flight but it suffered a delay getting back into Rochester that involved me getting hit on by an Australian Elvis impersonator and not getting in until 3 in the morning (those things are unrelated). Bryce didn't have a cell phone then. That was the moment when he realized the value of being able to take a call in an airport. The fact that he stayed was a harbinger that we were going to last. 

The time before that was when my dad flew me out for a week after the horrible (and yet in retrospect wonderful) revelations about my marriage, and I was so grief-stricken and shell-shocked that honestly I didn't care about turbulence or delays or possible in-flight disasters. I was probably a nightmare to sit next to.

So now, in this Summer Of Doing The Things, I am finally going to go visit my friend I've known since college but really became tight with when we worked together in children's publishing, a woman who I can have a phone date with after months of silence and end up yakking away for upwards of three hours. I always said, "I should come visit you!" but never really thought it would be a possibility, and then this summer I decided WHY NOT? We're not taking a big trip, I'm tutoring a bit, and it seems like the timing is perfect. I am so excited, and she's so excited, I've never been to Nashville, and we haven't spent more than a few hours at a wedding together in probably a decade, so this is going to be awesome. 

I leave tomorrow. On a plane. By myself. And I. Am. FREAKING OUT. 

First, I can't find my packing cubes. If you are unfamiliar with the joys of the packing cube, acquaint yourself! They are miracle accessories that help you Tetris your way to a highly organized suitcase and make it far more likely that you will fit all your shit into a carry-on. I discovered them around the California trip and I'll never go back...except I CAN'T FIND THEM. They are not in my suitcase. They are not under the bed. They are missing, and I am starting to hyperventilate. 

Second, I got a text alert about weather in NYC. Like, "A Delta Waiver has been issued due to weather that may affect your travel. To rebook, search for alternate flights via blah blah delta website blah blah." WHAT DOES THIS MEAN???
For 50% thunderstorms?
No weather advisory or warning or anything?
And it DIDN'T say "heavy rain" twenty minutes ago. 

I called to see what that means, and if I should reroute through a different connection, but the wait time is 34-48 minutes. They are calling me back. Goody, 34-48 minutes to perseverate about how this trip is clearly DOOMED between the Case of the Missing Packing Cubes and the Mystery of the Vague Weather Alert. 

When I booked the flight, I sprung for the Economy Plus option to give me priority boarding, seat selection, the option to have a glass of wine, and peace of mind. I hate the boarding process, the cattle-to-slaughter feel of it all, and all I want to do when it's close to flying time is GET ON THE PLANE and open my book and settle in to my new cramped space in a flying object that I hope will sustain my life for a few hours at ridiculously high altitude. It was worth it to me. But now I wonder...if I have to rebook, will I lose that? I also managed to book flights that did not involve getting up ridiculously early or flying in the middle of the night -- is that now possibly endangered? 

And, to top it off, in the time I've been writing this and checking flight info and weather info and generally feeling my heart rate skyrocket and my pulse lodge itself in my eyeballs, the radio station on downstairs CHOSE THIS MOMENT to do a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. 

Maybe I should go read my book until the Delta agent calls me back. Maybe I should continue the search for the missing packing cubes. Maybe I should position myself facedown on the floor of my office. 

This is all just normal 21st Century flying nonsense, right? This is not some kind of harbinger of a fiery plummet into the Appalachians? 

Thanks for virtually holding my hand as I basically spew my anxiety into the web. Breathe with me and tell me it's going to be okay. What are your tips for reducing flight anxiety? 

Friday, July 27, 2018

The Life I Thought I'd Have

Yesterday I went for a drink with my tap class (once a month they do Tap and Tapas, so you dance and then you tipple, which is my kind of dance studio). One of the dancers is getting married this fall, and she was talking about house hunting. She teaches in a district that is in the far reaches of our county, and lives more centrally, and is looking at a long commute. She acknowledged that she might not always teach in that district, but that she has to look for houses that have good highway access because "you wouldn't want to move districts and then have maternity leave untenured; that's a big risk."

I sincerely hope that things go the way she is planning -- house, wedding, not long after, baby. But it has put me in a bit of a funk hearing that on replay in my mind since last night, because once upon a time I felt that way too -- so sure of how things would work out.

I remember when we were talking about getting married, before we were engaged, we had breakfast at this place that no longer exists and discussed the pros and cons of marriage. One of the things that weighed heavily on me was that I didn't want to be unmarried and have a child together, and I was straightforward from the beginning that I really wanted to have a child. One part of the discussion was that we could get married in a couple years, maybe four, but I indignantly exclaimed, "I'll be THIRTY SIX in four years! Remember? Babies?"

We did get married when I was thirty-three, a decent enough age, but I was an untenured special education teacher that first year. I remember thinking that I wasn't being positive enough because while I really wanted to get pregnant, and that was the Year of the IUIs, I had some relief that it didn't happen when I was still probationary and hoping for a tenure track position. I remember weighing in my head the impact of maternity leave on my newly-accumulating seniority, thinking on how much (or, then, how little) I'd be able to take and still be pretty safe in my job.

Clearly, all that worrying was completely unnecessary.

Still, hearing this young woman talking so optimistically about the accepted progression and be encouraged by other dancers (all of whom had children), "Oh, yeah, you don't want to go out on maternity leave untenured," as if it is a done deal, as if that is just what happens. But for me, it reminded me of the alternate reality that never unfolded, of the possibility I once felt but is forever lost to me.

We've also been in a mode this summer of really evaluating our house, and deciding if we should stay with minimal renovation to fix the garage as is and the poorly constructed back room against the garage, do a major renovation with the garage and back room and a room above the garage to enjoy the wooded backyard and gain more living space, or fix what needs to be fixed and move to a home that has a functional garage and more driveway and a basement that won't give Bryce a concussion, among other things.

We've met with a couple contractors and a realtor. And every time we talk about the addition, we mention that we had plans drawn up previously, but that OUR NEEDS HAVE CHANGED, and so we can have a different kind of addition since we really don't need additional bedrooms.

The first time we said that to a contractor I immediately teared up, because while it was a clean way to sum up "our entire vision of what our life was going to look like imploded and we're never having children and so we just want a house that works for the two of us," it still makes me sad. It's a heavy four words.

But it's true -- we don't need our house to be a family house. And, as Bryce said when we were chatting about it for the fifteen zillionth time, it's weird how our house really acclimated itself rather quickly to a home with no children. All of our furniture purchases, our revamping of the nursery to my office and the living room to have multiple seating options and be more open... it all worked seamlessly. It's almost like the house didn't want us to have children, which I know is a totally loopy and strange thing to say, but it feels sort of true. Even through our jokes of "what's buried under this house, ha ha" when things went so spectacularly wrong, there was truth of this FEELING that the house didn't cooperate with our wishes for children, that there was a weird incompatibility there. It doesn't help that Bryce had dreams of a dark and malevolent force that was somehow central in our house and there were several times in the two week wait where I got searing low belly pain at the same time that Bryce had a dream like that, which is just plain weird. But we could also just be grasping at any reason, no matter how unlikely, that things just didn't work out for us any way we tried.

Today though, the person we met with who is both a realtor and a renovator, he said, "It's fine that you don't need to have more bedrooms for you, but if you ever sell this house you'll want to have bedroom space added if you do an addition, because it will make it more marketable."

And then I got that feeling again like at after-tap drinks... EVERYONE ELSE follows the progression. OF COURSE, the likelihood of some other couple without kids who love gardening and woodworking and music and scads and scads of books coming to buy our home is not high. OF COURSE it's probably going to be people who expect to have a baby or two, who are looking for a family home. Because that's what people do. That's the expected progression.

Again the life I thought I'd have, but will never come to pass.

It made me sad. All of this talk about the house and how it's evolved is exciting, and it points to the life that we DO have, which is not sad at all. BUT. It opened wounds I felt were developing a thin layer of scar tissue, and left me standing in the backyard, weeping, just overwhelmed with this idea of our house as two homes -- the one that was supposed to be, and the one that it is, and how we have plans for both possibilities and only one will come to fruition. It was like seeing the ghost of the family we would have been like a transparency over our existing blueprint, able to be seen but impossible to grasp. Utterly intangible.

I was so, so, so very sad. I wept for the children that didn't come. I wept for the father Bryce will never be. I wept for the mother trapped inside me who will only ever parent indirectly, sideways. I wept for the life I thought I'd have.

I made Bryce concerned that I'm not happy. Which is not the case at all. I am happy, and so grateful for our life, our marriage, and our beautiful, cozy home. Our life is NOT sad. I am not mourning this life, because it is downright magical. I'm mourning the other life that seems further and further away, the one that I was once so sure could be ours with a little hard work and a bullheaded insistence that it HAD to happen for us just because no other alternative made any sense at all.

After standing there in my sweaty bathing suit top, covered in dirt from pounding in edging in my patio border garden, Bryce finally ignoring my pleas to not hug me because I was totally gross, I decided that the medicine for my melancholy was MORE GARDENING. I may not have a baby, or a child, and I may not need another bedroom for another human in our home, but I have a lot of plants and garden space. And I can do something about that.

I can create space for more plants, and beautify existing spaces, and weed out unpleasantness so that my beautiful flowers can grow unimpeded. I can eke out a little control over my life with hard pruning of out of control, invasive honeysuckle. I can chase the sadness away with a little sweat equity. I can then sit back and appreciate the life I DO have, where I can garden as much as I'd like and not have to worry about keeping an eye on my child, where I can sleep in because we decided to have Thunderstorm Wine last night to celebrate the first storm we were both home for, where we can go see Monty Python's The Holy Grail with John Cleese speaking in person tonight and not need a babysitter.

It was just what I needed. I pruned, I weeded, I pounded, I sweat, and I even discovered a little treat. I'll always be sad about the life I thought I'd have but don't, but I am so very fortunate for the one that did come to fruition, which has so much enjoyment and beauty in what we do have.

See all that edging, sort of like a raised bed? I POUNDED ALL TWENTY FEET OF THAT. 

This is what it looked like before, just sort of spilling over onto the driveway, messy messy and likely to wash away.
See that crazy bush to the left, against the fence?
GONE! And in its place a funky stumpy unicorn. 
While pruning I was visited by this little guy -- a wood frog! Never seen one in the garden before.

He's got neat markings. Cute little guy. I felt like he came by to say, "you're okay."
(Or I live close to woods, so he was just pissed I disrupted his habitat with my therapeutic pruning.)
Yesterday before tap, sitting under our redbud tree which is now big enough to sit under in the shade, admiring the garden and feeling real lucky.


Monday, July 23, 2018

#Microblog Mondays: It Was Time

We are on a cleaning kick lately -- the first round came when we put one of those ductless air conditioner splits in our bedroom, and we had to move the bed and tidy things up for the workmen. Holy crow we should move the bed more often -- there were probably 4 cats worth of fur wadded up under there and clinging to the baseboards (gross, I know). But, we cleaned up the nightstands and the bookshelves, and the assorted clutter that just accumulates at astonishing speeds over not a whole lot of time.

It looked lovely after the clean (and the air conditioner thing is AMAZING -- living in a cape cod you're basically sleeping in the attic, so even with central air it never truly cools down...but now it's gloriously chilled upstairs), but we didn't feel an overwhelming need to attack further or attack other spaces, even though "purge the things" is on our summer list.

But then we went to see a house on Sunday (more on that later), and there's something about a house staged for showing that is just so CLEAN and so UNCLUTTERED that inspired us, if not to buy the house, then to go home and organize and purge and pretend we live in a tiny house. It doesn't feel that far off, even though our home is at least four times the size of a tiny house at 1600 square feet. I have a bit of a tiny house obsession.

So we attacked the bedroom and the closet some more, and in doing so I had a moment of, "WHY are these out and taking up so much of my bedroom bookshelf space?" when I saw all of my "how to deal with infertility and adoption" books taking up at least 18 inches. Pretty much all of the infertility and adoption reads on my sidebar still lived there, along with a few related memoirs, which I moved down to my memoir shelf. (Yes, I have a memoir shelf.)

Taking them off the shelf was so freaking freeing, as was pushing the stack over so they toppled across the floor and acknowledging all of the hope and pain and work and fruitless toiling that went into buying and reading (and rereading) all those books.

I stuffed them in a drawer in the nook, where I can't see them but they still exist, because I'm not quite ready to let them go completely, but they no longer deserve precious shelf space. They reflect a version of me that doesn't exist in quite the same way anymore. They are part of my whole, part of my ever-evolving story, but I just don't want to look at them anymore.

It's amazing that this grieving process just keeps going, at its own pace -- I could have never cleaned out that shelf at any time last year, it just wouldn't have felt right. But now? It was just the right time.

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

Monday, July 16, 2018

#Microblog Mondays: That Time* I Cried in Target

Last weekend we went to Target after our favorite Mexican restaurant dinner, and I went to the Paper Rebel section in Greeting Cards to get a support card for a friend.

That's when I found this:

Can you see what this says?
"If Britney can survive 2007,
you can do absolutely anything."

I saw this card and did a double take. And then I started laughing maniacally, and I took a picture of it and sent it in a text to my friend I used to teach with, message reading, "WHERE WAS THIS LAST YEAR???"

See, when I had my breakdown at school, I had to stop in the bathroom before this friend drove me home with the school psychologist following, and I joked, "Nobody hand me clippers because I'm having my Britney Moment! Just kidding, I love my hair. But this is a clippers kind of day..." and she laughed, only to be admonished by the concerned psychologist that "this isn't funny! This is serious!" To which she replied, "I know, but even in this darkest moment Jess is STILL FUNNY."

So that's how I went from laughing to crying in Target and went back to buy the card for myself because there was only one and it was just too perfect.

And yeah, I framed it.

While I'm not sure I agree with "you can do anything" sentiment, it's a great reminder that she survived that difficult period in her life, and SO DID I. If I could do anything I might also have a Vegas residency and make a zillion dollars dancing half-naked with snakes, but I guess I'll be content with a great marriage and a career I love and a happy life on the other side of my own personal tragedy.

* I say "that time" like I don't often end up in tears in Target... It's a fairly regular occurrence.

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