Follow me on the crazy, hopeful, discouraging, funny, and ultimately successful (one way or another) path to parenthood while facing infertility.

Monday, February 20, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: Fall Down, Get Back up

Please note the ghost of Bryce in the window...he's tall which is why this is so top-down. It makes me look super short, which I'm not, but it also has a slimming effect, which I'm not complaining about. 

There's a Japanese proverb that goes something like this: "Fall down seven times, get up eight."

I feel like this is my mantra for life February, because it has been a lot of falling down and getting back up.

Most recently, in a literal sense.

We went on an ice skating field trip on Friday, the last day before February Break. I was psyched, because I used to skate as a young person all the time and even took lessons (I was no Olympiad or anything, originally it was suggested as something to strengthen my weak ankles and other joints)...so I was like, "Wahoo! Ice skating! During the school day!"

The skates are different now -- more like ski boots with two clamps instead of laces and those tie hooks (which honestly felt far more stable than these new-fangled plastic things).

I started slow and then felt at ease in my skates, started speeding up, hit a curve too fast and...WHOOSH BOOM. Skates in the air, hard fall on my left side, elbow hit and hyperextended.

The FIRST thing I did was look around to see if anyone saw me dump it, and then I held my throbbing elbow and thought, "Oh shit, I hope I didn't hurt myself."

But I got back up (with the help of a hockey helper). And I kept skating, albeit slower for a while. I didn't try any of the tricks I knew when I was a teenager, because apparently when you turn forty your balance is different, your center of gravity has shifted, and you just aren't as nimble as you were when you last skated over a decade ago. Go figure.

I did end up spending three hours I'll never get back in Urgent Care on Saturday, to make sure I hadn't broken anything (still can't straighten it all the way and it's wicked sore and swollen on either side of the joint), which I didn't. I got a swanky sling, and I have to take it easy.

So many people didn't realize I'd fallen though...and I think it's because I got up quickly and got right back to skating. Stand up, brush yourself off, slow it down a bit, and KEEP GOING. Yeah, that sounds like life February to me all right. Fall hard, don't let them see just how much it hurt, keep smiling through the tumbles in hopes that it'll be smoother skating ahead.

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

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Feeling the Envy...And Then Letting It Go

When going through infertility and adoption, it is virtually impossible not to feel a bit of envy. I feel like it ebbs and flows -- it was sharper in the beginning.

In the beginning of this interminably long journey, every pregnancy announcement was a double-edged sword. If I knew you, I was happy for you and sad for me. I could legitimately be happy for you and your new family or, as time went on, added-on family -- I could compartmentalize that away from the feeling of "Oh, okay. Everyone's going to get pregnant except me. I see how this goes." Sometimes I felt a little more sad, or even a little irritated -- if someone had said, "I'm going to get pregnant by X" and then, doggone it, they DID. It seemed massively unfair, all these easy babies.

But then it became just par for the course. People got pregnant around me all the time. It got to the point where I knew people who had met their person, gotten engaged, gotten married, AND had a baby all in the span where we were still trying to have one, ONE baby. It's hard to say whether that was more painful than when I was still doing IVF and failing miserably and people I knew who got pregnant when I'd been trying for a while were coming back for their second. Those weren't easy babies, but it was proof that IVF worked for some people but not for us. That was also painful.

But that is how life goes, right? You don't always get what you want, and you get to see so many people seemingly have it easy all around you. You get to see bellies appear like magic, and people saying things about newly married couples having babies soon, and very infrequently does anyone go, "oh, but you could be infertile." It's taboo to suggest that maybe it won't be so easy. Even within the infertility treatment support groups it seemed wrong somehow to talk about the possibility of things NOT working -- more "never never give up" and less (or none of) "what would life look like if this didn't work?" or "When do you decide enough is enough?" All of which made me feel even more like a horror story, like a tale gone horribly wrong.

When we moved away from trying to get pregnant and into the world of adoption, I felt a little less pang when other people got pregnant. That wasn't for me anymore. And if someone successfully adopted? Well, it was proof that it could happen. I could still feel a little sad for me, and depending on what was going on at the time it would affect me more or less, but mostly I was like, Okay. Life goes on. Be sad and then move on, it's okay.

I feel like we are told not to be envious, not to let that jealousy sneak in. That "comparison is the thief of joy," and so we are not to entertain thoughts about someone else having what we want when we're still left empty-handed. I don't think that's realistic. I mean, you can't sit in an envious place for long, because it starts to poison you. But I think it's perfectly normal to have a little Woe-Is-Me Moment, to feel the absence, the nothing, especially in the overabundance of SOMETHING, seemingly everywhere else. Especially as it's proliferated on social media. Even knowing that people put a different version of themselves up on those sites than is actually true -- most people, anyway.

It's not just related to infertility.

I thought about this a lot around Valentine's Day. So many "share about yourself!" memes or frames for your pictures with hearts or "I Love Us," EVERYWHERE. What if you don't have your person yet, and you're feeling pretty down about it, and then all of a sudden you are blasted with "when did you meet? how long did you date? when did you get engaged? when did you get married?" question posts, and you're like, Hmmmm. Does not apply. You see your feed scroll through with so many happy couples surrounded by hearts or cute frames about "us" and think, Hmmmm. But I don't have an "Us." It is LONELY. It is ISOLATING. To me, it felt like what Mother's Day feels like for me. An explosion of reminders of what isn't in place.

It is hard to not have the milestone. It is hard to watch other people achieve it, seemingly so easily. I know that we don't always know all the pieces of a person's story. I mean, I am so very lucky to have the love I have with Bryce. We have so much in each other. We hit the jackpot on that one (although things were certainly not easy for either of us before we met). I can see how our relationship could be painful to see for someone who was going through a divorce, or single and not wanting to be, or in a relationship that is having a lot of difficulty. That could be hard. The people I see who have managed to have children, some easily and some not, may have that piece together in their lives but may struggle in other ways that we are fortunate not to. But all that aside, it's okay to feel sad or want what you don't have in the face of someone (or large masses of people) who's achieved it.

I had a moment, the night we went out to dinner after finding out that the blind profile we were considered for wasn't going to be our opportunity. Getting ready for bed, I just wailed.

"Why couldn't we have just GOTTEN PREGNANT? It would have been SO MUCH LESS COMPLICATED than this. We could have had advance notice when a baby was coming! We could nest for a limited time, not this multiple years of uncertainty! We wouldn't have so many other people involved in our family building, even with all the doctors! There'd have been so much less COMPLEXITY to our eventual parenting! We haven't even GOTTEN to that part yet, and I am just so EXHAUSTED by this, I am just SO FREAKING JEALOUS of everyone who got to get pregnant by whatever means!"

It seemed so freaking unfair, all of it. But...shoulda coulda woulda. That is so off the table, if it ever truly was a menu item from the beginning. And of course pregnancy is not without complications.

I am grateful for the adoption process, because we can become parents this way. It's a difficult process for so, so many reasons, and while yes, it is the best way for us to have our family, it's also...the ONLY way. There aren't other options for us. So yeah, I get jealous from time to time when I think about how long we've been at this with no guarantee that it will work out before we just can't subject ourselves to shattering and gluing over and over again...and so many other people don't have to go through this.

But jealousy is like any other tough emotion -- you need to feel it, and acknowledge it, and then let that shit go. You can't hang on to it forever. As my amazing therapist said once, "Sometimes you need to sit in the shit. But you can't stay there forever." I presume this is because the longer you stay in the shit, the more the smell attaches itself to you and then when you move away from the pile of shit, you still reek. The bitterness grows. But, the world is full of shit. You can't avoid it. There will always be something that you want that someone else has but it just eludes you. Maybe it's a relationship. Maybe it's money. Maybe it's a fulfilling job. Maybe it's a baby. Maybe it's a family of more than one child. Maybe it's a house that seems to have all the space in the world and miraculously stays clean. Maybe it's health. Maybe it's not suffering the loss of a loved one. So, you step in the pile of shit, and maybe you go ahead and sit in it a while. But then you get up, burn those clothes, shower thoroughly, and keep walking until the next pile drops in your path.

In a way, envy can be constructive, if you can stop to think about why you're so upset. You can reflect on your own areas where you have something someone else might be envious of. You can unpack that feeling and get to the root, and figure out how to find acceptance with where you are and an action plan for anything you can do to make your own situation better, or at least bearable.

Feel the feels. Step in the shit. Just don't stay there and fill up with stench. Find a way to let that shit go. I feel like we live in a society that's all about the letting go but not acknowledging that if you are letting something go, you had to hold it first. Feeling envy or jealousy just means that you are human, and that the truth is...life is messy. It's impossible not to feel those uglier feelings, but it's so important to realize that everyone, EVERYONE does and it's okay, honest.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

How Many Times Are You Going To Let Them Break Your Heart?

Soooo, we had another profile opportunity in the past 24 hours. 

It was a blind profile, where we might not hear about it until after the fact, but I called the agency yesterday with a bunch of questions unrelated to opportunities, and I was met with this at the end of the call,

"So, since I have you on the phone...you are being blind profiled now. The expectant mother is in labor...I'll call you when we hear anything." 

Um, okay. Are they all going to be like this now? Last minute pulls on the heartstrings, a possibility of a sudden end to our wait for parenthood, but then a greater possibility of being considered, and passed by? 

I didn't ask for more information. As a blind profile, our book is one of anywhere from 3-9 books chosen to be in front of the expectant mother, and when she chooses the family she feels most comfortable with for whatever reason, we'd get a call about her circumstance and then decide if we were okay with the information...and then find out we were already chosen. Except in this case we knew we were being considered but had absolutely no information about the case. 

And I didn't ask, honestly. Because after the last whirlwind, I didn't want to know ANYTHING. I wanted to be distanced a bit from the possibility of a match that could become a placement so quickly. Just in case. 

So I kept it close. I got this information at 3:00 yesterday. And told very few people anything at all. Because I can't afford to get to excited anymore. If I get excited, the probable fall from possibility becomes too steep, too deep into the pit. Better to keep it shallow, especially if it's last minute. 

Except today I had to let a few people know that if my phone rang I was running out of the room. Like, literally, since in some rooms where I teach there is virtually no service whatsoever because my middle school is situated in a valley and parts are pretty much underground. Should I need a bomb shelter (which I hope I don't), this school would be awesome. For cell signal, it's not great. 

When I told my English coteacher, he just sort of looked at me and said, 

"I feel like your situation is like that quote from "The Miracle Worker," you know, where Captain Keller is asking his wife, Katie, how she can bear more hope in the possibility of doctors for Helen:

'How many times are you going to let them break your heart?' He asks his wife, and she says, 'Any number of times.' 

I can't imagine how hard this is for you."  

Um, I would like an award of some kind for not bursting into tears and somehow managing to keep my emotions in a sort of robotic check for the next few moments. 

And then I got the call in 8th period, and ran out of the room, and didn't catch it in time, and had to call back while in the main office vestibule. God I hate the signal sucking nature of our building. 

It was a no. She picked someone else. There was no feedback on why. 

So, in a way, it was better than the last time, because we wouldn't have known this was happening and we knew nothing about the situation at all. I could distance myself a bit. I could toughen my skin up against the hurt of not being chosen, again, because I couldn't picture this baby. 

I didn't know if it was a girl or a boy. I didn't know where the hospital was. I didn't know any history or information about either birthparent. So it was a sort of amorphous baby opportunity. 

But, it still hurt. How can it not? I fear I will develop a complex about not being pickable, thus far. Why not us? I feel like Sally in When Harry Met Sally when she finds out her ex-boyfriend, Joe, has found his wife-to-be. "Why not meeeee?" she wails. "What's wrong with meeeee?" 

That's sort of how I feel. Why don't we connect? I know when it's right it's right, but it feels a little like something's off with us. I know this isn't totally logical, but we're 5/6 on this one. Once we were picked, in a blind profile, but then the expectant/birth mother decided to parent before we were notified, so does that count at all? (Yes, yes it does.) It feels like we aren't being picked until last for dodgeball teams in middle school PE. It feels like we are somehow less-than. 

I chose to tell the few people who knew we were in the running for something, "Well, always a bridesmaid..."  People were understandably sad or mad on our behalf. My English co-teacher kicked a desk in frustration. I won't lie, it felt good to have others feel a fraction of what we feel in terms of disappointment when we aren't picked, again.

So, I asked Bryce to take me out to dinner tonight. And we had a lovely fancy dinner out to celebrate in some way how awesome we are and that hopefully we will get picked, sooner than later, and in the meantime we can have oysters and tenderloin and wine as a consolation prize. 

These last-minute calls, two in a row, are taking a toll. 

How many times can we let them break our heart? 

Oh, countless times. 

But each time takes a little something from us that fancy dinners can't quite replace. 

I hope we get a call that is our call soon... as thick as I try to make my skin, the hurt still seeps through.

Monday, February 13, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: We Don't Really Do Valentine's Day



I have the stomach bug. It has swooped in and laid me flat, and tomorrow is Valentine's Day.

Except...we don't really do Valentine's Day, so it's perfectly fine (I mean, other than the fact that I have had severe nausea and chills all day, which is NOT FINE).

We do not enjoy the commercialism of the holiday, the overpriced flowers and dinners and the expectations of grand displays of love and affection for everyone to see. We usually have dinner at home (which is often quite tasty, although I suspect tomorrow will be soup) and for a couple years we have made our own Valentines for each other out of my crazy cardmaking stash in the basement...and that's it. We did take a last minute trip this past weekend at a swanky hotel in Toronto, which I'll write about later, so that was sort of Valentine's Day-y (although interesting to see so little hoopla in Canada about the holiday) activity but not really, as there was another purpose to the trip.

I guess our take is that we don't really need a prescribed day to show our love and appreciation for each other, we feel like it's better to do that all the time, interspersed with regular days, and for ourselves, not for public eye. I knew when I first dated Bryce that flowers weren't part of his repertoire (he's an engineer -- flowers die, why give someone eventual death as a romantic gesture? Not logical. Sigh, I married Spock.), and that's fine. If I want flowers I'll buy them (or cut them in the summer). But not around Valentine's Day when they are easily 2x the normal price.

So we do our dinners out, and our little surprises for each other that range from books to records to homemade GF coconut custard pie to special tea in the mail and love notes in the morning. All year long, not just on the day card companies and social media competitiveness tell us to.

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

Thursday, February 9, 2017

...Because I Don't Have Kids

I have a repeated phrase I've been using a lot lately, and I've been thinking on what it means.

Sometimes, when people ask me things like,

"How do you have time to read so much?"

or,

"How can you just go out to dinner in the middle of the week?"

or, at a recent professional development thing I helped to facilitate, where I ran into someone I used to work fairly closely with,

"You are clearly working too much! Why don't you slow down a bit?"

And I usually laugh a nervous laugh and say, "Because I don't have kids."

This is okay, because it is true that because we don't (yet) have kids that we have more expendable time. I can read all evening (if I'm not writing IEPs that are hanging over my head right now) if I want to, because I don't have to help with homework, manage bathtime, put tiny people to bed -- none of it. I can just sit on my couch and disappear into someone else's world for a while. We can go out to dinner in the middle of the week because we don't need to plan for a babysitter, we don't have to arrange for tiny people's care in our absence. I can work all I want, sign up for all the after school and evening things and go to student concerts because I don't have anyone who needs me to do things when I'm gone (other than Bryce but he's fairly self-sufficient, you know). No one is missing Mommy. Bryce doesn't need help with nighttime routines or picking people up from the bus stop or after school activities. That time is all mine to fill.

But there are other reasons, too.

I read a lot because I value reading. It drives me crazy when people say, "just wait until you have kids, you'll never read again." I happen to know moms who actually read. It probably will slow down, but kids killing reading? That's so weird. I know it can happen, but when we spend more time reading than watching TV now, I can't imagine not fitting in at least a little reading for myself when that baby comes.

We go out to dinner in the middle of the week because we have free time, but also because we are financially fortunate, and in a way this is our thumbing our noses at our situation. So we don't have a baby yet after a zillion years of hoping. At least we can have roast duck and beet salad with goat cheese and the occasional oyster on a Wednesday if we want. We can gussy up and feel fancy, because while we can't run off on a flight-based vacation (too much advance planning, too much money when we have to protect the Adoption Fund), we can have a tiny vacation night, out somewhere where we can pretend to be somewhere else.

I work a lot because I love my job. I also have a very demanding job with lots of paperwork and planning and even though I've done the same thing in theory for years now, my kids each year are different and I always want to change things up to benefit their unique styles or interests or needs, or if something interesting is happening in the world, incorporate that. I want to learn more things about teaching, and diversity, and book choices, and am pursuing my Natio.nal Board to be a better, more thoughtful teacher (although this year that process feels fairly overwhelming and one component seems like a mishmash of things that we've already done, and it doesn't feel quite as valuable as the first three). I have the time to do evening things and after school things because I don't have kids, but some of these things I think I would prioritize anyway, when I got back to the classroom. But I am guilty of a fair amount of filling my time so I don't have a lot of downtime to think on our situation, so I am so busy and invested in my students that I can't think as much about how I don't get to look at education from a parent's point of view. So I go to student concerts and games when invited. I sign up for professional development opportunities that mean something to me, even when they at times go until 9:30.

I feel like saying "because I don't have kids" can be a problem, though. Does it give credence to the people who say, "Just wait until you have kids! You won't do any of those things!" -- even just a little? To fill up my time with fun or extravagant things as a hole-filler? I don't think so, because we love these things regardless and did them before we planned on children. Or does it make it seem like there are these tremendous benefits to not having kids, when I'd love nothing more than to be soaked in soapy water thanks to a splashy three-year-old in the bathtub? Am I rubbing the parent people's noses in our freedom, financially or timewise? Or do they realize that while we DON'T have kids, we still have to plan for their possibly instantaneous appearance, for a sudden need to drop everything and become parents, and hand over all the fees and expenses for adoption at a moment's notice? That we do what we can to feel free and happy when we are in this limbo all the time, somehow Not Parents but not Resolved Childfree, either? It feels like I've been pregnant in a sense for years, like a mammoth or something. But you can't see it. I can feel the exhaustion though. It's real.

What people see are the fancy dinners, the Christmases in Vermont, the list of books read (105 last year), the busyness at school and my joining problem...and it seems like we are foolish, foolish people to think we can keep this up when the call comes, finally. Or that we are lucky, lucky people to have so much freedom. Or that we will feel a harsh, harsh shift when it's all taken away. That's the one I don't get. When people make parenthood sound terrible, "oh you'll never do woodworking again" or "say goodbye to all your books" or "Ha! Good luck with your PhD when the baby comes!" I don't doubt there will be a slowing, for a time. But totally drop everything we love to do? Doesn't seem reasonable. I know families who accomplish this. I know it can be done.

Somehow I have two minds on this. I don't want to overglamourize not having kids and the freedom it imparts, but I also want it to be known that if we don't have kids, ever...we will have this lovely full life. And if we do have kids, we will have most of that life and a bit more (and a bit less, because it's a give and take). That everything comes with sacrifices, and it's particularly hard to be waiting for parenthood and preparing for parenthood in every possible way but still not have those kids, to still be waiting for the naps and baths and feedings and goodnight routines to start.  To have the freedom but also the fresh loss of what we'd love to have: to cheer on my own kid at a game or an orchestra concert, to be tired from lack of sleep because our baby's here, to read the same battered picture book over and over again at bedtime. To have two rooms full of baby stuff (the nursery and the back room), an earmarked chunk of change in the bank, a home study file that seems to be neverendingly in need of updates, and to have hope but feel no real progress yet. It seems we have some of the sacrifices without the rewards, so we make our own.

Because we don't have kids.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Help Me Be the Bigger Person...Maybe

Okay, so I have to relay something unpleasant, and I am going to try to keep identifying information out so that it's not entirely possible to figure out who the person is, but someone close to us hurt us deeply in the past week. I'm not sure how to deal with it.

I came home late last week in a tizzy because Bryce was super upset. He said it was work related, but mostly personal, and I shouldn't worry. Always comforting, that "don't worry" -- I feel like that causes INSTANT anxiety.

He was beside himself. Apparently, there was a brou-ha-ha with a friend's wife.

It all started with stupid, stupid faceb.ook.

The wife's mom had posted a meme that was some anti-immigration thing, along the lines of "I lock my doors at night to keep my family safe, the country is just locking their doors from certain countries to keep everyone's family safe." I'm sure that's not exactly what it said, but it was the gist.

Bryce hated the logic of it, and felt like it was faulty, and that these countries have REFUGEES that have been fighting for years to enter the U.S. so that they could keep THEIR families safe, and so it bothered him. A lot. So he wanted to comment on it.

Please note. If you know Bryce at all, even just through my ramblings, you know that whatever he would have commented would have been respectful and disagreeing in a very temperate manner. It would have been, "I disagree with this statement, you lock your doors against anyone who is trying to hurt you but not people who ring your doorbell or would need to come in because they need your help," or maybe even just "I respectfully disagree with the logic here," and then maybe a statement about REFUGEES who flee the very terror that certain presidents are so wanting to prevent (read: cause fear in the masses so that we associate all people of a certain religion with killers). It would have been very civil.

Because Bryce likes to make sure he's not offending anyone, he felt the need to text his friend's wife to give her a heads up that he was planning to comment on her mom's MEME. Literally, a heads up that he disagreed with something circulated on the internet.

I am not doing a good job of presenting the facts in an unbiased way, but I think you will see why in a moment.

He said, "Just so you know, your mom posted something that I find offensive. I am going to comment on it. I know faceb.ook isn't the place for political disagreements [interjection: what ELSE has it been for lately, honestly? I guess he meant that no one's mind would be changed...], but I feel I need to say something."

Okay, in retrospect it sounds a little weird, a little like "I'm going to blow this thing wide open." Except it's BRYCE. He's the politest person ever.

This person, this friend's wife, took that as an instant threat against her family. She immediately assumed, from what I can tell, that Bryce was about to attack the shit out of her mom, and she had to defend her. She called her husband, yelled at him about what a jerk Bryce was, and then crafted this gem of a text to Bryce:

"For the past seven years, I have been tiptoeing around you and your wife, feeling like I have to apologize for being a mother and a [excellent job involving pregnant people and babies]. If you see something on fac.ebook that bothers you, scroll past it and say nothing. FAMILY WILL ALWAYS COME FIRST."

Wow. So, he was understandably hurt, because this is someone who has supposedly been there for us through our seven years of trying to have a family and seemed to be understanding and even helpful. And now apparently all we've done is make her feel like shit for her life and her job and she has had to tiptoe around us, and she basically equated scrolling past an offensive political post to SCROLLING PAST OUR PERSONAL TRAGEDY.

It was pretty awful. First, Bryce didn't ACTUALLY write anything. No comment, no nothing, he never actually said anything to this person's family. Second, she brought ME into it. I had absolutely nothing to do with this pretend interwebs conflict about a meme, and so to first call me "your wife" instead of "Jess" and then to even say that we have made things difficult on her, wow. Just wow.

I was pissed. Because Bryce never actually said anything to her family, and then she went and attacked our family because there was some weird threat that Bryce may have gone rogue and called her mom a xenophobic psycho or something. Which he didn't.

So, help me here.

I am trying to see different sides of this situation. She felt her family was being attacked, so she went on the offensive. HOWEVER, that offensive is a very sore spot for us and calls into question whether she's ever supported us at all or has just been tiptoeing, feeling like she is very much inconvenienced by our situation. Which makes me want to scream, "I'm so sorry that our infertility and adoption journey has been SO DIFFICULT for YOU."

When asked by her husband, she apparently said that she wanted to use it as an example. That she wanted to MAKE A POINT.

Well, in my mind, that's the wrong thing to make a point about.

I can see how that text would have been off-putting. I mean, I was confused as hell -- why wouldn't you just comment? Or ignore it? I mean, I get finding a post that really sinks its teeth into you and you want to don the educator hat and explain why it's so very faulty. I have broken my rule of commenting on others' political posts a few times myself. But, I felt like, either comment or don't, but don't send a note about it. Maybe after the fact, if you want to be somewhat apologetic.

But still.

I think a rational response would have been, "What are you talking about?" or even "What the FUCK are you talking about?" or maybe even "please don't comment on my mom's post, I'd rather you didn't."

But to make it so intensely PERSONAL was a bit of a shock. To include me in something that I had nothing to do with threw me for a loop. To hit us below the belt, literally, seemed over the top. For a meme.

It sort of seemed like this had been stewing for a while, like it bubbled to the surface so quickly it must have been there, all along.

I really take issue with "feeling like I have to apologize for [my life]." Because I can't make someone else feel guilty. You do that all on your own. I actually am very open about our journey and how it makes me feel, and while this has caused some people to not believe me when I congratulate them on pregnancies, or to say they didn't know how to be my friend while pregnant...that's THEIR PROBLEM. My best friend is a stay-at-home mom of three. Clearly that's not a problem for me (or for her). Because she's a good friend, in part, but also because I DON'T HATE MOMS. I don't ask anyone to change their behavior. I do ask that you understand if I don't go to a baby shower but send a gift instead, if I don't want to go to a child's birthday party filled with people with kids, if I don't invite children to my own baby shower or 40th birthday party because we're adopting and so there's booze at both. That's not me asking you to apologize, that's just me setting parameters. I don't ask you not to have a party with kids. I just don't have to go, and I don't have to have kids at my parties. I fail to see how I have caused tiptoeing or guilt for existing as a mother and a person whose job involves babies and pregnancies.

I mean, my teacher friends largely have children. All but a small handful of my friends have children. I actually asked them, "Do I make you feel like you have to apologize for being a mother?" and they looked at me like I was totally insane. BECAUSE THAT IS A CRAZY STATEMENT.

So, what are your thoughts? This is a person who feels she is justified in her statement. I have not contacted her as I was included by proxy, and Bryce asked me not to, at first. I don't know what good it would do, other than to try to explain how the words you choose have consequences and can be quite hurtful. Am I being too sensitive? Or is it really as hurtful as it seems, for someone who was there for us through our losses and even used her expertise to help us on occasion?

Why do people so cavalierly say such stupid, harmful things?

I would love to know what you think about this morass of words gone wrong. One consequence is that Bryce took fac.ebook totally off his phone. Too much trouble on that stupid thing. I wonder what it would take for this to be forgivable. Should we ask for an apology? Do we just let it go and wither since if words like that can be so casually used the friendship was shallow? Or do we recognize that a fit of rage caused someone to use words that could negate years of friendship and support as a result? Maybe it was a bad day. Although I have had some pretty bad fucking days, and I don't think I have ever hit someone where it hurts like that, and then not apologized or seen the error of my ways. What happens if we don't receive an apology?

Help.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Rereading The Handmaid's Tale

30 years old, this copy. So creased, so loved.

I love Margaret Atwood. I've read her since high school, and was fortunate enough to see her at a local university this fall, reading aloud from The Handmaid's Tale.

I've read the book (which has never been my favorite by her) probably five times, but the only thing that stuck in my mind after probably 10 years since last reading it was the butter -- the handmaids steal the butter from dinner to use as a lotion of sorts, since they are not allowed any kind of vanity.

I didn't remember one of the most famous quotes, a sort of Latin: Nolite te bastardes carborundorum ("don't let the bastards grind you down") until a friend showed me his tattoo that he got when the current administration was elected, on his bicep, of those words in his friends' handwriting.

So I thought I should reread it, given that there have been so many protest signs reading things like "The Handmaid's Tale isn't a guidebook" at the Women's Marches, and with all the reproductive rights regression talk it seemed a bit scary prophetic. I was also embarrassed to have forgotten that quote that appears no less than ten times in the book, Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.

Let me tell you, it is a different experience reading the book as an infertile 40-year-old than it was the last time I read it, probably as a 20-something. My copy is creased and yellowed and cost me $5.99, with a copyright date of 1985 and a printing date of 1986. I was 10 when that came out, so I would guess I read it first as a high schooler.

It is interesting to read about a world where women are controlled and prized/imprisoned by their reproductive capability. Where handmaids are hired to live in households so that Commanders and Wives can have children, and the Ceremony has the handmaid lying staggered on top of the Wife so that it's all one and the same, sort of. Where you are condemned if you are not able to have children and don't have the status of Wife, determined by socioeconomic status and esteem.

I would not last long in this world. Maybe I would be a Martha, relegated to the kitchen or other domestic household duties. I would not survive the constant poking and prodding of the reproductive systems. They would find me lacking. I was especially disturbed by the historical notes at the end, which blame STDs and environmental factors on widespread infertility which necessitated the use of handmaids (although left out that it was only women who could be infertile in this society, heaven forbid a man be deemed deficient in this way in this particular world, only women could be fruitful or barren). It said: "The need for what I may call birth services was already recognized in the pre-Gilead period, where it was being inadequately met by 'artificial insemination,' fertility clinics,' and the use of 'surrogate mothers,' who were hired for the purpose. Gilead outlawed the first two as irreligious but legitimized and enforced the third, which was considered to have Biblical precedents; they thus replaced the serial polygamy common in the pre-Gilead period with the older form of simultaneous polygamy practiced both in early Old Testament times and in the former state of Utah in the nineteenth century."

Ouch. Interesting though to see the Bible interpreted literally (and also twisted a bit) to justify the complete subjugation of women disguised as doing an important duty for the state. Doctors who had done abortions hung on a wall for all to see, punished severely for their transgressions against the birth rate. Yet babies born with any kind of "defect" were deemed Shredders, and taken away, deemed unfit. Hmm.

It is an interesting perspective, looking at this world through the eyes of someone who will never carry a pregnancy to term and isn't capable of even getting pregnant anymore, who is dependent on someone else in order to attempt to have a child at all. Which sort of makes me feel a bit like a Wife, even though the arrangement is different, clearly.

I was excited to see the trailer for the miniseries on H.ulu during the Superbo.wl. I hope it does the book justice. I'm glad I reread it, so I can think on where we are headed, and watch the TV series with a critical eye for the differences I'm sure to catch now that I remember more than butter.

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