Thursday, December 29, 2016

Holiday Traditions, Without Kids

Christmas is hard for a lot of people -- people going through infertility, people in the adoption wait, people who wanted kids but are now childfree not by choice, people who haven't found that special someone yet, people who have lost a love or a mom or a dad or a child or someone else important in their lives. It's a holiday that's all about families and togetherness and celebrating a miracle baby, and so when you are missing any of those things it can be hard.

There's the whole "Christmas is best through the eyes of a child" thing that you see in commercials and the internet and, well, everywhere -- the onslaught of children on Santa's lap (I love the crying ones, they have good survival instincts: why on earth do we teach kids about stranger danger and then purposely put them on some hairy man's lap and then tell them not to cry? MAKES NO SENSE), of Elf on the Shelf shenanigans (oh how I hope we get away with never having one of those), of the now ubiquitous videos of children running down the stairs to see what magic Santa's left for them.

On the last day of school before break one of my students asked, "So, when you grow up, isn't Christmas sucky, because you have to buy everything for your kids and it's not fun for you anymore?" And I may have initially said, "I don't know, I WOULDN'T KNOW WHAT THAT'S LIKE, we DON'T HAVE CHILDREN" (because the night before was sobby A Christmas Story Night and I was still a bit raw and oozy). But I recovered as my wonderful Teacher's Assistant said how she's actually sad this is the first Christmas she's all by herself without people to tend to: her kids all grown and out of the house and her husband working as a sheriff in the morning. I agreed with her that when you get older you enjoy giving more than receiving because you start to feel like you don't need more stuff and it's fun to find that amazing gift for someone you care about, and added that socks and PJs suck when you're a kid but man, they are the BEST when you're an adult. The cozier the better. Throw some books in and you've got a great pile o'presents. I think I managed not to take my grief out on my student who was just asking a question about Adult Christmas, but just barely.

I was really thinking on what Christmas is like when you don't have kids after reading Different Shore's post about not feeling the Christmas spirit as an adult without children. Is it just not the same holiday? Should it just get canned since it's so commercially child-centric? I don't think so. Because I love Christmas, but I've never had the joy of having children to experience it with. I'd argue though that we do the SHIT out of Christmas, without children, and we have a blast doing it. We're like kids, but ones that can have wine and Christmas cocktails.

We have our own holiday traditions that bring the joy of the holiday to us, as is. If we are lucky enough to have a child for future Christmases, they will just get thrown in with our already-cemented traditions and a few new ones.

Here is how we do Christmas up, sans children: 
1) Christmas Tunes. The Christmas music comes on MIDNIGHT on Thanksgiving. Not a moment before. And then it has to include the following albums: Elvis's If Every Day Was Like Christmas; Kenny & Dolly's Once Upon A Christmas (With "I'll Be Home With Bells On on heavy repeat); John Denver & The Muppet's A Christmas Together; Annie Lennox's A Christmas Cornucopia; A Windham Hill Holiday Guitar Collection; Leon Redbone's Christmas Island;  Vince Guaraldi's A Charlie Brown Christmas, Bing Crosby's White Christmas; The Carpenter's Christmas Portrait; How The Grinch Stole Christmas; Harry Connick Jr.'s When My Heart Finds Christmas; Amy Grant's A Christmas Album; and the deliciously campy Martinis and Mistletoe by the Yuletide Lounge Band, Willie Nelson's Pretty Paper...there are more but these are non-negotiable. And they don't stop until January 6th, the 12th day of Christmas, when Bryce is safe until next Thanksgiving at midnight. (I'm sure the countdown has begun.)

2) A New Countdown. We got an advent calendar of sorts this year, a Woodland Critters Christmas Countdown. It's amazing. December 1st is a lasercut wood tree you put together, and then every window in the flat cardboard boxes is a different lasercut and burned critter -- rabbits, owls, a hedgehog, a funny little raccoon, a fancy squirrel, a bear -- 22 critters until the 24th when a glittery star is the last thing for the tree. It's awesome. I'm sure it's great with kids, but man did I enjoy trading days with Bryce to open each critter and guess what it was based on the size of the door. The cat likes to knock them down, so there's a little earthquake that flattens the critters every once in a while, but they're not really breakable so it's okay.
The complete set, and a snowman that looks like the Staypuft Marshmallow Man come to stomp on everyone.

3) Festive Mantel. We don't always have a tree, because sometimes we spirit ourselves away for a romantic vacation in Vermont for Christmas, but we always do up the mantel with evergreens (fake) and mercury glass candles and our stockings and a sad plastic stocking for the cats that has the same catnip mice in it it's had for five years. The cards go on the built-ins Bryce made a few years ago, but this year we had a glut of wonderful holiday greetings and so had to stick them in the (fake) evergreens, too. If you can see up close, there's a little red cardinal to the right in the (fake) evergreen branches, which is a nod to my best friend's grandma. I got her one, too -- it's a nice memory of the (insanely huge number) of little red cardinals that were sprinkled all over her grandma's house at Christmastime.

4) Profane Decorations. If you didn't see it the first time, we always put the same card from YEARS ago in the center of our mantel, under the gold glass candelholder ball, from friends who share our sense of humor. Here's a closeup for your viewing pleasure, because it's just too good not to share. Also, we have two of them (two years in a row deserved that card) so if one goes up in smoke or something we have a backup.
Can you read it? "Happy F*cking Holidays." So perfect: festive AND deliciously inappropriate. 

5) Christmas Cat. 
This one gets image first, because it's...terrifying. Festive and old-fashioned and really, really creepy. I can imagine it taking life after midnight and crawling all stop-motion up the stairs. Even though it scares me, it goes out every year (obviously this is from a pre-me Bryce era). Actually, when we were in Vermont one of the front desk guys who is from Iceland told me all about the Christmas Cat -- sounds cute, but is actually an Icelandic legend that ensures you get clothes for Christmas. Because if you don't, he eats you. Maybe this could be our Elf on the Shelf -- Christmas Cat on the Mat. Maybe.

6) Travel Tree. When we escape to Vermont for a romantic holiday, we bring this little fake bottle-brush tree with us, along with tiny mercury glass ornaments we bought both locally and at the Northshire Book Store in Manchester, Vermont a few years ago. It makes it feel like we've decorated the room for ourselves, even though there are full-sized Christmas trees everywhere in the Vermont inn where we stay.

7) Christmas Eve Peek. In my family growing up, we got to open one present Christmas Eve, when we got back from Midnight Mass. I have instituted this for us, even though Bryce thinks it's clearly cheating. One present, preferably a small one, on Christmas Eve.

8) Stockings, then Breakfast. If we're NOT traveling for the holiday, there's an order of things that I'm pretty rigid about (go figure). I make a crazy citrus salad (segmented, supremed pink grapefruit, clementines, Cara Cara navel oranges, etc.) and we can have that while we open our stockings. Then, we have a big Christmas breakfast and open presents after. It stretches things out.

9) One at a Time. Speaking of stretching it out, we each pick a present for the other to open, and then we each open it at the same time. We can't open the next present until the first one has been thoroughly admired. It goes on like this for HOURS, not because we have a zillion presents as much as because we like to give each one its due and really appreciate how fortunate we are. It drives people crazy though, because out of town family will call and we aren't even remotely done with presents and likely haven't opened theirs yet. I'm sure should we be so lucky to have a kid one day, that they are going to LOVE this tradition. (It will build patience and appreciation in a time of immediacy and expendability, right? RIGHT? They'll love us for it later?)

10) Bryce's Book Selections. For several years now, Bryce has made it a challenge to pick out a handful of books for me for Christmas. He doesn't use my wishlist or the Keep list I have of titles I want to read...he just looks at what I have read and looks at lists of acclaimed books in genres I like and then runs with it. Sometimes there's a theme -- last Christmas all the books had red in the cover somewhere, totally by accident, but then for my birthday they all had birds or ravens in them. This year there were some interesting picks, one I'd read before (but loved and would read again) and some I'd never have found myself but love already.
This year's picks. I had just finished the second Raven Boys title when I opened the third (Blue Lily, Lily Blue), and I'd already read The Virgin Suicides and he was horrified it came as a movie cover (I HATE movie covers) but it was funny and I didn't mind...The Principles of Uncertainty is amazing and I've read it already and will probably reread it a zillion times, I'm looking forward to Mosquitoland, and Thrillplex Theater looks....interesting but I'll bite. 

11) Weird Gift Tags. I don't know exactly when this started, but originally we would give each other presents and one or two would be from one or both cats. Then we got creative. This year, I received presents from: Lucky (my cat), The Practical One, The Relaxed One, Neil DeGrasse Tyson; The Weird Risky One (Thrillplex Theater was in that bag); FinFet; EigenValue; Captain Obvious (that was Fannie May chocolates that came in a box that said FANNIE MAY CHOCOLATES all over it, real subtle packaging for gifts); Hot Stuff (my new oven gloves); and Mr. Creepy, who gave me no joke the creepiest picture book EVER:
The story itself isn't creepy, zero children are murdered by this train...but apparently the train and MidWorld come from Stephen King's Dark Tower, so it has dubious origins as a children's story. I see this train in my nightmares...
Bryce got presents from me, but also some from Polaris, The Woodland Critters, Photons, and Your Brain Cells. Mine weren't nearly as good as his were this year.


There, a zillion (okay, eleven) Christmas traditions that have nothing to do with kids whatsoever. Yes, even the picture books -- I've been collecting those since my early 20s when I worked for a publisher. They are beautiful, and while I hope I'll share them with our future child (although maybe not that horrifying train one), I get enjoyment out of them, myself, now.

I hope the holidays were kind to you, no matter why it might be a tough time. I hope you have your own interesting traditions to make the holiday yours, today, the way things are in this present moment. It sure makes it fun for us to have these little things to look forward to in a time that can be a bit melancholy.

Cheers from us to you!

Another tradition, although not so much a Christmas one -- a champagne toast when we settle into our room at the inn. I love this picture for our faces -- adoring and silly all at once, and ready for our own holiday celebrations, as a family of two.

PS -- Here's "I'll Be Home With Bells On," in case you don't know it... Good luck getting it out of your head! My gift from me to you!


Friday, December 23, 2016

Sort of A Funny Moment

So, after last night's feeling of utter tragedy, I woke up all frog-eyed and puffy. The holiday hoedown at school did not help my headache. I felt a bit fragile all day, but got tougher-skinned as time wore on.

A woman I work with had brought her baby (who is now toddling all over the place) in to school, and she put the most adorable sweater and sweater hat on him during homeroom. He was reaching for hugs, so I picked him up. Oh, how delicious, that potato sack weight that clutches your arm and lightly kicks your sides.

I was still holding him when my students came in for the final period of the day.

The looks on their faces were priceless -- there was a surprise and an "OH MY GOD!" expression as a few of my sweet kids entered the room, and I knew immediately what was going through their innocent little heads.

"Oh no no no no," I laughed, "This is Ms. __'s baby! Oh no, that's not really how it works!"

I could see the humor in it, which is good because at the wrong time yesterday this would have had me in tears. The students were a bit sheepish in realizing that the chances of suddenly acquiring an older baby of my own between 5th period and 9th were pretty unrealistic.

I found their flash of belief in this magical baby delivery endearing though, and their amazement and brief moment of OH MY GOD IT FINALLY HAPPENED! to be just incredibly heartwarming. It would be nice if one moment I was empty-armed and the next there was a sweet little guy or gal on my hip, but alas -- insta-baby doesn't exist and is outside Santa's scope.

Bummer.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Holiday Grief Sneak Attack

It started at the bank.

I left school with rolls of quarters, dimes, and nickels in my cupholder to go exchange for $5 bills and a couple ones for our vacation tip money. I keep missing the bank's open hours, so these rolls of coins have been weighing down the side opposite where my morning coffee goes. But today, I made it with twenty minutes to spare.

My bank is a chain, but I love going to my branch because they are very friendly and remember who you are; so it's sort of like an old-fashioned bank from yesteryear. Also, they have notarized EVERY SINGLE FREAKING THING from IVF to donor material to adoption paperwork to embryo adoption releases. So they know us fairly well.

After exchanging my coins in their neat paper packages for crisp bills, the woman behind the desk asked, "Sooooo, how are things?"

I knew exactly what she meant.

"Still waiting," I said with a plastered smile.

"Really? Wow. That seems...long."

"Seventeen months -- some close calls but nothing has really meshed. Yet. That's why we're going to Vermont for Christmas, to avoid feeling sad around the Christmas tree just us two...again."

And then she said, "2017 is YOUR YEAR. It just HAS to be. I've been notarizing paperwork for you for years, this MUST be the year."

Oh, I hope so. But it echoed and ricocheted in my mind...how many times have I heard "This is YOUR YEAR?" in the past seven?

And it just never is. Or rather, it just hasn't been, not yet. But there's just SO MANY not yets piled up.

The second hit came when I opened a card from a friend of mine and the age of her children hit me in the heart, hard. How on earth could they be so old-looking? I mean, they are now just school-age, but I remember when she was pregnant. I remember right before she got pregnant, that she said, "I've been trying longer than you, so it would only be fair if I got pregnant first." And then she did. And I had the ectopic and then the miscarriage and then...nothing. And now her children have grown up suddenly into these not-babies, and I remember talking with her about how surprising it was to feel the expansion of twins, how painful her first trimester was for all the stretching to accommodate those two precious babies. I remember her visiting me in bed as I recuperated from my laparoscopy to remove my tube and my wayward baby and the botched incision thanks to a late-night asthma attack post-surgery, and how I asked about her anatomy scan of the babies and if she knew the sex and she stood there by my bed, with tears rolling down her cheeks, and told me that it was a girl and a boy -- and I told her that I didn't want her to not tell me her news just because mine was so shitty.

And now those babies are bona fide children. I love the card, and the family they make, but it hurt my heart so much to realize how long it's been, how hopeful I was that we could be moms together, at the same time, and our kids could grow up together. Obviously that didn't happen. They're growing up without my Mystery Baby's companionship.

Then the kicker came, and it surprised the fuck out of me.

We decided to watch a Christmas movie after a crazy day. I picked A Christmas Story, because I haven't seen it in forever.

I had no idea that it would result in a sobbing jag and a trip down into the pit.

When Ralphie beats up the kid with the yellow eyes and his mom peels him off (and leaves the bully bleeding in the snow), there's a tenderness in the dinner scene after where the mom manages to simultaneously tell the truth ("Ralphie had a fight") and protect her son from any paternal wrath by bringing up sports stuff and not pursuing it further. It's a sweet mother-son moment where he realizes he has an ally in his mom, even if just a bit ago she was washing out his mouth with LifeBoy soap for uttering the F-word. The tears started then and then flowed freely as the family went to see Santa on parade and then the boys wake up to the magical frosted Christmas morning and race down the stairs to mess with their presents.

Oh my god, what if I never have that? I thought. I've been missing this for years and years. What if I miss it forever? 

It slammed me in the gut and stomped all over my heart to see this family tableau play out in a movie where Bryce noted we've always identified with the kid, and now we identify with the parents...EXCEPT WE'RE NOT.

It sucked.

I just cried and cried in the bathroom as I washed my face and took off my eye makeup, and then I cried some more--wild animal sobs--as I sat on Bryce's lap and he rubbed my back. I cried for all we've lost. I cried for all the lost time. I cried for the possibility that this just may not be for us. I just cried and cried and felt all my losses, all the years of hope and disappointment, as if it had just happened.

I wish we had watched Love, Actually, which was my second choice. Although for all I know there would be tears for that, too, today. I don't remember all the parts--it's possible there would be a trigger there since I am apparently set up for tiny filament triplines. I thought I was okay, I thought that looking forward to the balm for the soul Vermont trip that is such a refuge for us had put me in a holiday spirit, a place of healing and happiness in what we DO have. And I am, I am happy for what we have right now.

I just really grieve the life we thought would be for us that hasn't quite come to be yet.

Monday, December 19, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: Unintended Consequences



So, the cards that we sent out for the holidays were (mostly) a hit -- we got texts, facebook messages, and comments both in-person and web-based about how awesome the idea was and how great our sense of humor about the whole waiting thing is.

We also had a few, um, unexpected responses.

My assistant principal stopped me in the hall to tell me how he loved the card, but that it initially made him sad that we were still waiting, which is the complete opposite of what we wanted people to think (well, I guess we wanted it to be more joyfully ironic than out-and-out depressing). He did say he admired our attitude and that our sense of humor will serve us well, but it bummed me out a bit that he felt sadness first.

I also received a card from family friends I haven't seen in a quite a while (after they'd received ours) that congratulated us on our wonderful news and asking us to let us know when the baby arrives... OH HOLY JEEZUM, do they think I'm pregnant? All of a sudden us dusting the nursery and the "Waiting" book took on another meaning that we certainly did NOT intend. I mean, I'm pretty sure we sent them a blatant "Adoption" card last year, but now I'm wondering if it didn't get there... Not quite sure how to handle that one, because maybe they just think we were matched up, but I guess time will out our circumstance, right?

I felt like the "(still a) Mystery Baby" part of our signature made it clear that we're still waiting, and I hope I don't actually look pregnant. I guess if you're not in our headspace all the time it could be easy to read into the nursery dusting not as a "Oh look! We're still waiting! Better dust everything off!" but as "Oh look! Time to clear the dust to make room for a real live baby that's actually coming!"

Oops. I think it was mostly received the way we intended, but these other reactions make me wonder if I should work on the clarity of the message if we're still in this amorphous place next year.

Then again, I hope next year is clear as a freaking bell!


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

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Uterus Update

I am over the freaking moon...the bleeding has stopped. As in, today is the first day in MONTHS that I don't have wear some sort of protective product, and I am officially in the clear. AND BEFORE VERMONT! I am ecstatic, because I had no idea if my uterus was going to try to screw me, even as its functional part was in its death throes. It was a very real possibility.

My post-surgery follow-up is on Wednesday, and I'll get to see what the heck was going on in there and what to expect moving forward. I'll get to meet the polyp that wreaked havoc, in picture form. I'll have what is hopefully one of the last internal ultrasound wandings in my life, ever. I have one more in four months to make sure everything is healing up, but I am hopeful that being wanded will finally be a thing of the past.

How glorious! And the cramping is much, much less than last week. Every once in a while my uterus gives me a bit of a kick, like it suddenly remembered to still be mad at me for melonballing it, but I don't even need ibuprofen anymore.

It is amazing to realize what an impact bleeding for months has on a person. Physically, yes it's tiring and probably not all that healthy, but mentally it really got to me. To have that gone (and hopefully for good) has put me in such a great mood. Hooray endomyometrial resection! So far, I can say the medieval horrors of prep and surgery are totally worth it.

Monday, December 12, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: A Different Kind of Adoption Shoot

Remember last year, when we did our "Waiting" shoot? The homage to the belly maternity shoot I'd wanted but that would never be, done in a way that was hopeful and celebratory and not sad?

Hopeful, excited, optimistic!
A tongue-in-cheek potshot at waiting (oh hindsight, so funny)

Well, since we're waiting again this year we decided to do a different kind of shoot. 

A more...snarky sort of shoot, one that takes this idea of the "perfect" Norman Rockwell family and twists it a bit. I admit, I came up with the concept for the shoot before our president-elect took his current position, and so now the idea of a nod to the 1950s has a taste of bile in it, but this was my rose-colored glasses view of the early 1950s, because that was when all these images of perfect domesticity blurred the actual reality of sexism and racism and fear and loathing.

My shoot's not quite as dark as all that, but there's a dark humor lurking:

Yes. We're featherdusting the nursery.

Putting away books.... "Waiting" and "Peep and Egg: I'm Not Hatching." 

Loving up the glider in the nook

Oh, time...you rascal

Greeting Bryce with his martini, yup that's real snow

Making that twist for the martini
(it's really water, Bryce was so disappointed but it was noon, so...)
And one of my favorites, which is a direct dark-mirror image of one of the original shoot setups:
Get it? The first one was "Every Family Starts With a Wish"
and then there's just more somewhat-patient "Waiting"
I love it because both shoots are beautiful, and both shoots are reality. The excitement and fresh hope of a new process, and then the reality of keeping it light and sarcastic and still hopeful despite a longer wait than we'd hoped for. Why not do two shoots? 

Here's last year's card:

Front
Back


And this year's:

Front
Back


I wish the story had progressed to a baby announcement this year, but that's not how it went. I think we did pretty well with the story we got, though...Happy holidays to you, and may you always find a way to laugh at the twists and turns life throws at you.


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

* Last year's photography by Kelly Zimmerman Photography
** This year's photography by Tres Bien Images 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Deep Thoughts

Recently, I saw a movie and read a book which posed questions/thoughts that made me think. They lodged themselves in my subconsciousness and just keep working their way through my synapses.

"If you knew how everything in your life was going to end, would you change anything?" 
I may have paraphrased it, but that's the gist of a quote from the movie I saw last Sunday.

It's like that whole hindsight being 20/20 thing, only with knowledge ahead of time of what you're walking into. It's a hard one, because I believe that everything you go through makes you who you are. Bryce and I talked a lot about this -- we are the couple we are in part because we've had to go through so much together. You can go back even farther to the fact that had I not had a disastrous first marriage, I wouldn't have met Bryce at just the right time. I wouldn't have learned the lessons of that experience that make me a better person today. It might not have knocked my marble in just the right trajectory to become Bryce's wife and partner in a life that's beautiful, if messy (and really, whose life isn't to some extent?).

But at the same time, would it have changed things to know ahead of time that we would ultimately be horrifically unsuccessful with IVF? Would we have entered into the adoption process sooner, fresher, less beat-up-feeling?

It's sort of a question that pries itself into the what-if part of my brain. What-ifs are fairly useless, because you can't change anything and wondering what different trajectories might have done is wasted time, because they didn't go that way. However, this question is asked in the sense that it IS possible to see ahead, to have memories of events to come, and then to make decisions knowing what the trajectory is going to be. It could make each moment precious for knowing, or it could make you in a way responsible for outcomes that were inevitable once a certain choice was made.

I don't really believe in things being inevitable, so it's just brain food, thinking on this question for me, but it sure is interesting to think on the effects of our choices and experiences. Infertility was not a choice for me, but how I tackled it was. We made a zillion choices (and still make them) in our quest to build a family. Would I change anything? Or would changing something bring me to a different outcome than might have been otherwise possible? Like Bryce coming into my life at just the right moment through Match, is our specific Mystery Baby out there at the end of this gauntlet? What if there is no Mystery Baby at the end of all this? Would that realization change the way we moved through all this? I just don't know.

Which brings me to the next thinker.


"The world isn't your friend...it's not designed to go your way. All you can do is make the decision to muscle through and fight the trend."
This is from Today Will Be Different, by Maria Semple. I LOVED Where'd You Go, Bernadette, which was her last novel. It was funny, it was quirky, it was heartfelt. It's my go-to book recommendation. Today Will Be Different has some similarities, but seems a bit...darker. It's twisty, and I didn't altogether like the main character/narrator, but that's okay because I enjoy that sort of thing. But this quote stuck with me...something about it wedged its way into my noggin.

At first, it kind of seems super pessimistic. Well, to me it totally made sense. Although there are ways in which the world is my friend (um, BRYCE, our life together minus the absence, my job) there are ways in which it decidedly is not (anything having to do with procreation, the slow crawl of the adoption process). But then again, it's that second part that appeals to me.

The world isn't designed to be a fairy godmother, giving you everything you want, making sure that everything is smooth...but you can fight your way through it and make the best of the things that did fall into your trajectory, a trajectory that you didn't necessarily sit and let happen to you but that you muscled through and influenced, yourself. You have the power to wrestle the ways of the world and get some things to go your way. Not everything, but that's not what this quote says. This quote says that you muscle through and fight the trend, and the trend is against you. You have to make a conscious decision as to how you're going to fight, in what way, and what you can influence versus what is outside your control. I love this quote because there is only fighting, not control.

It puts responsibility on you to captain your ship, to realize that LIFE IS NOT FAIR, but that you have to work to make the best of your situation, of your life, of existence. At least that's how I see it.


So tell me, what are your thoughts on these things? Is everything a conscious decision to wade through what's given? What's a choice, and what's not? How much can you change in your life? Do you have a trajectory, is it changeable, and would you want to know where it all goes in the end? Would that influence your decisions or would you still go with the flow for the whole experience of it all?

Those are my deep thoughts for this Sunday. I'd love for you to join in...

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Goodbye, Functional Uterus

Well, I made it through what I started calling "The Melonballer" procedure. I am on the other side, sore and crampy but all in all not feeling too bad.

I'll tell you what WAS bad. The seaweed laminaria experience.

Tuesday afternoon I went in with Bryce to be sedated for the laminaria insertion. They showed it to me in its package, and while I didn't get a picture I found this one at this link from the Museum of Contraception and Abortion in Vienna. Well, who knew there was such history to this "little" stick! When image searching one, I came across all sorts of medical illustrations I could do without seeing.

About the size of one of those fireplace matchsticks.

They used it to dilate my cervix so that they could more easily pass the instruments through that would essentially peel my lining from my uterus.

It was, no lie, the most painful part of the procedure. So that I felt better about the size of my laminaria, which was bigger (longer) than I'd envisioned, they showed me a "size 8" one that was no joke the circumference of a pen. NO THANK YOU. They got the IV in on the first try on Tuesday, which was a freaking miracle. I was sedated for the insertion (thank goodness), and let me tell you that sedation works FAST -- one minute I was commenting on the wavy ceiling, the next I was gone. They even gave me a much smaller amount than they would Wednesday.

I woke up to cramping, in part because there was something in my cervix but also because it protruded quite a bit into my uterus. My uterus doesn't like invaders of any kind, but especially not this stick of evilness. I was given prescriptions for antibiotics, and anti-nausea stuff for the next day's sedation, and thankfully narcotic painkillers. The nurse wisely advised me, "Be sure you STAY AHEAD OF THE PAIN. Don't think you'll be okay without the vicod.in. You won't, and it will steadily get worse, and you won't be able to catch up with the pain pills. Take it as soon as you can."

Even with taking them as soon as possible, the pain welled and welled and just got steadily worse until I couldn't stay on the couch to watch Interst.ellar, a movie that is greatly enhanced by pain medication; ha, ha. I had to curl up on the floor with a pillow and a heating pad. It was horrible. It was what I imagine early labor to be like, as I felt it clear in my back and it came in waves that got steadily more awful. But unlike labor, I didn't get a baby and there wasn't any pressure from above to add to the pain. The pain medication probably covered about 70-80%, and then blissfully I was able to sleep around midnight and when I woke up it was much, much better.

As soon as I started moving around the cramping got worse, but nothing like the night before. I took one pain pill to get me to the next sedation round. I ate breakfast (since it's conscious sedation the deadline for food and water is 4 hours before, which is much more humane than other anesthesia) and lots of water. I hoped skipping coffee would lower my blood pressure, which for every check related to this procedure was ridiculously high. I have always prided myself on my blood pressure, but it's been creeping over the past 5 years. In this medical office it was WAY WAY higher than ever, like concerningly high. Interestingly, after the last sedation and the procedure was over and I was conscious again, it dropped back to my rockstar levels. Something to keep an eye on, but definitely related to all the anxiety related to my procedure.

It took three tries to get my IV in for the procedure. My veins are crappy, and yesterday confirmed that. In fact, when I said, "man, they're still tired from IVF," the nurse practitioner said, "And not from previous drug use, right?" UM NO. NO, I am NOT a previous heroin addict THANKYOUVERYMUCH. I just have crappy veins. I then joked that I would make the WORST heroin addict ever, because if they can't get an IV in what would be the chances I would ever get in there? Ha HA ha ha. I was a little offended but not much because, you know, opiate epidemic.

By the time it went into my hand they were ready to sedate me, probably because my ramping anxiety levels were evident and also because I kept mentioning how much the surgical instruments looked like clay sculpting instruments, and that they look like when my dad sculpts things in clay first, which opened interesting conversations about prosthetic makeup and how no, he doesn't live here, he lives in L.A. (which makes a lot more sense), but then I kept saying that they were "The Peelers" and I think my sense of humor was a bit...uncomfortable for the people about to do the peeling. Ha.

No joke, like slightly smaller versions of these.
Source: www.thesculpturehouse.com
I woke up all sorts of disoriented, and Bryce's job was to keep me talking so that I wouldn't slip back into sedation. I was in far less pain than the night before. I apparently told the IV story and the clay sculpting tool story about a zillion times. I don't think I swore as much as I used to when getting twilight sedation for egg retrievals, which I guess is a good thing. 

It's weird not to get a detailed update right then and there -- they are going to discuss findings at my followup two weeks from yesterday. They did find a polyp. No clue how big or small, although the nurse who called today said it was "average size" whatever that means, probably bigger than the little alien colony who last waved at me after a hysteroscopy. They did send all my endometrial tissue to the pathology lab, and they'll call if there's anything abnormal, which they don't anticipate. 

Major thanks to Bryce, who has kept me comfortable and supported and loved even when I didn't remember it. He ran out to get me more pads, as I clearly was going to need more than my supply, and set me up in a cozy nest on the couch with my book and water and the bottle of painkillers nearby, and I didn't wake up until 5 but really just felt so cared for. That Bryce. Such a good egg. He even found it funny and not irritating that I told the same lame stories and jokes over and over all day yesterday. 

And so there it is -- I did take one pain pill today when the cramping got cantankerous, but otherwise I just feel tired. I don't feel that much different than before, even though 5% of my uterus is gone and I can quit taking the Depo Provera and my lining will never function ever again. I am bleeding, and can expect to for a few weeks. I'm hoping it ends before the Vermont trip, but if it doesn't at least I know that it will end and hopefully end for good after that's over. It might be too much to ask for, but man it would be nice to be back to my normal self by the time we take our romantic holiday vacation. 

I thought I'd be sadder because my lining is gone, but I'm not. It's over. Hopefully this works and I don't need a hysterectomy down the line. Even though I've known my reproductive life was over in January 2015 when our last cycle was cancelled, December 7th 2016 marks the date it really and truly became no longer possible...at all. It was a fraction of a percent before, and now it's zeroed out. There's a certain relief there. A sadness, sure, a compilation of complicated feelings from how our journey ended, my-body-wise, but a finality that went from depressing to hopeful. Maybe now my reproductive system will stop torturing me. Maybe now I can live a life free of the reminders that my body was supposed to be able to procreate, but can't. It's freeing, actually. 

Unless that's just the vic.odin talking. 

I don't think so, though. My uterus is healing up and I do believe that as it heals, so will my emotional feelings about how it never did what it was supposed to do, the rejection I felt, and the hurts sustained by a body that just plain refused to cooperate on this front. These feelings won't ever completely go away, but I do believe that I can make peace with them now. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: Agency Holiday Party



This weekend was a bit of a blur. Bryce has a paper and presentation on the paper due shortly after my surgical procedure on Wednesday, so he was working for most of the weekend and I was trying to take up some slack and get my own work done for this coming week (sub plans, finalize lesson plans, make sure they are sub-friendly...) since I'm only teaching two days thanks to torturous-sounding uterus surgery.

Nestled in there was the adoption agency holiday party. We decided to go for an hour, and this year we actually stuck to it. Our policy is that when Santa comes, we skedaddle...because really, what point is there in us standing at the periphery, watching other people's children receive prizes from a bearded stranger in a weird red suit?

I made gluten free brownies and we saw people that we knew and so felt a TINY bit more comfortable than last year when we were meeting our mentors for the first time. We even introduced ourselves to a couple who seemed awkwardly in the corner as we had been last year, but the overwhelmingness of the party as a new prospective adoptive parent was too much and one person had to excuse herself to cry...thank goodness before we left she found us to say that it wasn't us who upset her (because we were worried our comforting, "we felt this way last year" might have been upsetting because of the implied wait length...whew that we weren't cry-causers).

A bittersweet moment was seeing friends from our neighborhood who we met for the first time last holiday party, not knowing we were neighbors, and they had been homestudy certified for just a couple months. They brought their new son to this party, and we...well, we brought brownies and a better sense of when to call it good and leave than last year.

It's good to go, to meet new people, to spend time with our mentor family, to see what we hope is a peek into our future. But it's also good to take off early, get a little more work done, and then reward ourselves with Five Guys and a rare Sunday night movie at the fancy recliner theater.

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Traumatizing My Uterus Instead of the Other Way Around

My hysteroscopy consult was interesting. I'm still bleeding, steadily although not heavily, and I am slowly going crazy as a result. A couple of weeks would have been annoying but manageable, but 5+ months? This is so not okay. 

The specialist doesn't think I have the kind of polyps that would cause bleeding, because my uterus is too small on an ultrasound and my polyps of yesteryore are more cervical-y ones, even though they were on the uterus side, and they are a different beast. 

It was recommended that I have the hysteroscopy, but that I also do an endomyometrial resection to fix my woes. Basically, that means removing my lining and the very top layer of muscle to ensure the "root" of the lining is gone. Doesn't that sound pleasant? The pictures on the website look like a fancy medical vegetable peeler is shaving off the entire inside of my uterus. Thank goodness I'll be out for it. 

If I have polyps this will remove them, if I have fibroids this will remove them, and it will prevent both from recurring. It will give me a pretty good chance of being done with my periods forever, without having to lose my whole organ. 

Not going to lie, it does sound a bit extreme and barbaric, even though the process is very high tech and designed with safety and best possible outcomes in mind, and it was invented by the same specialist who will do it next Wednesday on me. 

Positive: I won't have to mess with my hormones again. I can stop the Depo Provera, I don't have to do anything to meddle in my natural (dysfunctional) hormonal state. 

Negative: THAT'S BECAUSE I'M PEELING OFF A PART OF MY BODY. 

Positive: Most women manage to avoid hysterectomy as a result of this procedure.

Negative: While it's not removing my organ, it has the same effect because it basically renders my uterus completely nonfunctional, reproductively. 

This is the one that is causing me some angst. I am hideously infertile, and my chances of a "miracle" pregnancy are about a hundredth of a percent, between the shitty lining and one tube and flighty ovulation and low sperm values. I am on birth control to try to control my cycles (that part's failing mightily) but also to give me peace of mind, to know that I really can't get pregnant...even though that's fairly obvious after so many high-tech attempts that failed. I don't want to live in shady possibility. I don't want to pee on sticks that will always have one line. I don't want to worry about miscarrying because I have all that scarring or because my body just doesn't know how to do this procreation thing. 

But it's one thing to control that aspect and another to destroy it. I will have ZERO chance of getting pregnant, because I am effectively destroying the part of my uterus that makes that possible. 

Even though no pregnancy has been reality for a long(ish) time, the FINALITY of removing my lining is sobering. And a bit depressing. 

I am conflicted. When discussing options (limited since I don't apparently respond to hormonal stuff unless it's estrogen based, and I can't do that because of the whole prothrombin mutation thing) with the specialist, I started to tear up and basically said, "You know, I am not attached to my uterus as a reproductive entity. I just want this freaking bleeding to stop." Cue slow leak waterworks. I don't want to ruin my reproductive system, but in a way it's already ruined. 

My poor uterus. Poked and prodded and reluctant to make nice plush linings, and then scarred up and peeled piecemeal in hysteroscopy "lining refreshings" and endometrial biopsies. Never to carry a baby for more than a couple of weeks. Never to do anything but cause me pain and consternation. But does it deserve to be mutilated? Because that's what this feels like, to an extent. Safely, medically, expertly mutilated, but shaved down to the muscle nonetheless. As the specialist said, "Basically we're going to give you Asherman's on purpose." Well awesome, I'm already at least 1/3 of the way there! 

The endomyometrial resection is NOT ablation. There's no burning of the lining. It's literally removed. Another positive to that is that they send all of the material to a pathology lab, so if there's something in there that wasn't visible, it will be found. But a negative is that my uterus is also going to look like Freddy Krueger's face, all the way instead of partially

The risks are that some of the lining grows back and I get blood trapped in the nooks and crannies of the scarring, with no way to escape. The uterus tries to expel it anyway, and so you get really, really awful cramps until it's removed. That's somewhat rare though, but not super rare -- the rate's 10%. 

So I am scheduled for next week, first to go in and get this crazy thing called a laminara inserted into my cervix. It's a matchstick-sized roll of seaweed, that slowly expands overnight and dilates the cervix so that the instruments can get in there. Which is especially necessary because I've never had a vaginal (or any other kind of) birth, so my cervix is all locked up. This is the second time I've heard this in a few weeks. How awesome. Apparently this dilation is super crampy and can be more uncomfortable than recovery from the actual procedure...so you know, something to look forward to. 

The good news is that they will sedate me for that even though it only takes 3 minutes (take THAT, doctor who wouldn't get me Valium for the SSG/endometrial biopsy!), and then I'm out for the hysteroscopy/resection. Supposedly recovery is 36-48 hours, and this is on Wednesday, so I guess I'm out the rest of the week. I could do the seaweed thing after school on Tuesday, but Wednesday had to be during the day. Although I guess I could teach in the morning...Hmmm. Maybe I'll do that, since I'm teaching The Outsiders and I really enjoy it...I don't want to miss anything. Oh, wait, I'm being sedated Tuesday afternoon. That might not work out. Shoot. 

Anyway, I feel like it's a little extreme, but maybe not. I've run out of options. The specialist said if Depo wasn't working to regulate me, then the IUD that was recommended wouldn't, either. If this doesn't work then I am looking at a subtotal hysterectomy, but I'm not there yet. I did have a  daydream a few weeks ago where I was having a hysterectomy and I decided to throw a "Salute the Ute" party beforehand. Although really, what's there to salute? What has my uterus done for me, pretty much since it started menstruating? NOTHING, that's what. It was irregular and heavy with its periods, and then tamed into some submission when I took the pill for 15 years, but I still had horrid cramps that would drop me to the floor and curl me up like a dead bug. And then it didn't do the function it is literally meant to do, even with all the help medically we availed ourselves of. It refused to get or stay pregnant. 

So really, what do I owe it? I guess I could salute its effort, meager though it was. Also, thanks, uterus, for at least not trying to kill me through all this. I feel a little less guilty about traumatizing you now. 

Although in losing 5% of you to the endomyometrial resection, I am still traumatizing myself. It's hard when faced with writing down and then discussing your extensive gynecological history not to feel the acute and cumulative loss of all the failures and babies that never were. And then to realize that without a shadow of a doubt, nothing will ever grow in my uterus but little invaders. So I guess I don't really feel too bad about removing the part that is fertile ground for everything but babies. 

Such a mixed bag. I'm sorry, uterus. But you should kind of be sorry, too. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: Christmas Cards, Body Image Struggles

Well, the Christmas cards are ordered! I am dying to share pictures but Bryce wants me to wait, for THE MYSTERY of it all. It's killing me slowly.

I forget every year what it's like to try to find a format, a card template, whatever those things are called...because you have to sift through fake card after fake card that depicts a new baby, or a happy family, or, in the case of the company we used, one called "The More The Merrier!" that showcased a kissing couple in the background holding up the in-focus closeup of their ultrasound. Holy hell, when did THAT become a thing? No thank you. I did appreciate the many same-sex couple and family cards that were showcased. That made me forgive the company a tiny bit for the ultrasound nonsense.

We did find one that I liked, although there was one I REALLY REALLY wanted to use that was called "Make Your Own Merry" and was perfect for the "we're okay with all this waiting and a nursery that's still empty, sure" feel we had going. Too bad the text went over our faces and wasn't moveable.

I'm happy with the card we put together and ordered. I know it's crazy to spend money on hair and photographer for a card, but it made me happy. We've done a photo card together every year since we were married (that one was fun, a couple wedding photos to introduce us as a unit), and I have them all. I sort of want to make a display of them, because they do tell a story. Even if right now it's not the story we'd hoped for...

The pictures came out absolutely gorgeous. I discovered that I am hugely critical of myself though, and cannot believe the state of my jawline and chin and forearms. Why did no one tell me when you get into that middle age bracket your forearms get fluffy? I don't have the batwing arms at the top, but this forearm business is crazypants, and only shows up when my arm is at a right angle and holding something close to my body. Which seems like a picky thing to latch onto, but there it is--especially annoying because I do work out! I am trying so hard to love my body even though I felt that my dress didn't fit as well as I wanted (it was new and I wish I had had it tailored first), and in some poses it bunches around me fairly unflatteringly, and my chin wants a buddy, I have to remember that I am my own worst critic. I was sure I weighed more than I did over the summer after seeing my pictures, but actually I weigh a bit less. It drives Bryce crazy because he thinks I am gorgeous and sexy and loves a little extra fluff on me, and so why can't that be enough? I don't know.

But, the photographer and Bryce insisted that since I had my pretty hair I needed to do a couple glamour-y shots, and so I agreed and I'm glad I did. It seemed so frivolous, but Bryce said, "You need some pictures to remind you that you are beautiful as you are, to remember this time in your life." Okay, I guess so...so I changed into a simpler dress than I'd worn for the 1950s shoot and let the photographer pose me. Since those aren't on the cards, I'll share two here:

I love the smirk, like I have a secret.

I have this in color, too, but it's so classic in black and white. It's a bridal pose, but it worked and made me feel super glamorous. Do you see my little critters hanging about the window? 
That last one is my favorite. I don't feel like "UGH, NO MORE CHEESE DIP FOR JESS" when I look at it. I feel beautiful, and maybe a tiny bit like I can see myself through Bryce's lens. Something to remember when the Ughs hit me again, as they always do.

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

* Photos by TresBienImages

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Donor Material Subplot Sneak Attacks

Oh, reading. Such a wonderful pastime, such a cheap way to travel and un-creepy way to possess other bodies, other minds. Maybe the way I stated that is creepy. Oh well, it's true.

Just for the sake of spoiler alerts, the two books I'm going to talk about are Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty and The Things We Wish Were True by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen. If you haven't read these yet and you don't want anything whatsoever spoiled, quit reading now. I promise not to spoil major major plot points, but you already know that donor material wends its way through some part of the books, so hopefully that in itself is not total spoilage. But yeah, I'm going to spoil things about the subplots, so stop reading if you haven't read them yet and are planning to. I mean it. Come back after.

Okay.

Truly, Madly, Guilty
Truly, Madly, Guilty first, because it irritated me least. Liane Moriarty is no stranger to writing about infertility, since I've previously written about how a very realistic IVF experience shows up in a rather large subplot in What Alice Forgot. That one really got me, because I was fresh off IVF-ing when I read it, in the getting-homestudy-approved phase of adoption. It made me tear up, but because it was realistic and very much accurate in my mind. Truly, Madly, Guilty is different, because the subplot is fairly important to the dynamics of the main issue in the book. Basically, these three couples (two of whom have children) have an impromptu barbecue, and SOMETHING happens at the barbecue that affects every last one of them including the crotchety older man next door, and you don't find out what that SOMETHING is until fairly far into the book. The chapters are from various perspectives and divided up into The Day of the Barbecue and unlabeled chapters that are clearly months later, and then close to the end, The Day After the Barbecue. I will not reveal the SOMETHING.

But, the subplot is that the neighbors who do not have children, Erika and Oliver, have been secretly going through IVF (eleven rounds of IVF in two years apparently) and have recently found out that Erika's eggs are poor quality and that they need to find an egg donor. They are asking their friends, Clementine and Sam, if Clementine will be their egg donor, since in Australia you need to find a known donor or the rare anonymous uncompensated other than medical costs donor, as the way so many do it in the US is illegal. Something I didn't know, actually. There is a shortage of egg donors in Australia, and so their doctor tells them they need to approach a friend or relative as that will be the easiest, least complicated option (um, okay...). As you can imagine this causes a lot of tension that adds to whatever the SOMETHING is that happens at the barbecue that changes everyone.

For one, Clementine and Sam are flabbergasted that two years and eleven rounds of IVF have gone by without them knowing. They also throw in a "but you said you didn't want children!" to Erika, which makes her bristle because apparently can't you change your mind on that front? Erika and Oliver say they didn't want to share their struggle, it was their private thing, but now they need help. They don't tell anyone that if they can't find a known donor then that option is not likely going to work for them, and everyone assumes that there are other options, which seemed pretty realistic to me.

Erika is more ambivalent than her husband about parenthood though, more willing to accept if it doesn't work out, but very willing to do whatever it takes to give her husband the child he wants so badly.

Clementine's thoughts in her head show a reluctance from the start, "To their own child, thought Clementine despairingly. They'd be good parents to their own child. Not my child. It wouldn't be your child, Clementine. But it would. Technically, as Holly would say, it would be her child. Her DNA. People do this for strangers, she told herself. They donate eggs just to be nice, to be kind. To people they'd never met. This was her friend. Her "best friend." So why was the word "No!" so loud in her head?" (p. 94)

And then, the worst thing happens...as Clementine is talking her feelings over with her husband as they go to change their youngest girl's diaper, Erika comes up with the diaper bag and overhears the conversation. It doesn't go well. When Sam asks Clementine if she wants to do it, she says no, a gut no, but then calls the whole thing repulsive, and then says, "I think I'd feel like it was my baby. I'd feel like they had my baby."

Oh, tension tension tension. I actually thought that the complexity of donor egg is handled well, from all the viewpoints. The overly simplified way Erika's husband, Oliver thinks of it, the gut reaction Clementine felt at being asked, the way it affects the strained friendship that they have already. The horrors of accidentally letting it slip to a parent who may not agree with your decision. (Erika's mom has some issues, but clearly makes her thoughts known when she laments not having a "real" grandchild and being further beholden to Clementine's family if she donates her eggs, and seems to have no idea what they've been through to get to this point, only seeing it from her own selfish viewpoint.)

I also like that things aren't wrapped up as neat and tidy as infertility subplots often are. SPOILER; they don't go through with the friend egg donation. They make peace with never being pregnant. Oliver researches foster adoption, because both he and Erika had very complicated family lives growing up and he thinks they could have an insight into hurting children that maybe might help them be more prepared for the difficulties of such an adventure. And the difficulties aren't glossed over, but there's no child at the end for them. No miracle pregnancy. No baby-dropped-in-the-lap. And that is very much appreciated.

It was interesting, because I was very happy to have an anonymous egg donor when we went through that process. I might have liked to have known more about her, and later have had the option to have my child be able to know her in some way, but I didn't have to have an incredibly awkward conversation with a friend about it, or think about those dynamics. That is one of many reasons why we didn't pursue gestational carrier. Using an agency is illegal in New York, and even using a known carrier is legally tricky, and even approaching those conversations in a hypothetical way was terribly, terribly awkward and prefaced with "we'd never actually do this, but..." One friend said that she'd have a much easier time being a gestational carrier than an egg donor, because she felt the same as Clementine -- it would really be HER baby, whereas carrying that baby would be easier. Which I thought would actually be the other way around, in the end no one really truly wanted to do either (and we didn't really want them to, either, so it was all fair and good). I cringed at the scenario in the book, but felt it was accurate and added so many tensions to an already tense situation that gets way, way worse -- deliciously so for the book.

The Things We Wish Were True
This one just plain pissed me off. It was an infertility subplot that I feel is only one step away from that awful gestational-carrier-gone-wrong movie that came out in the late summer/early fall. There is no way for me to discuss this one without ruining one of the four storylines that weave their way through this book. The book was okay, but this subplot was very, very irritating. And HIGHLY unrealistic.

It's Bryte's story. (Even the name Bryte irritated me...there were so many strange names here -- Bryte, Jencey, Zell, Cailey...and I know it was set in the South where interesting names reign, but COME ON.)

Bryte and her husband, Everett, have a two-year-old son named Christopher, who's the spitting image of his daddy. They tried hard to have him and went through an infertility clinic, when finally they were blessed with their little boy. The problem is, Everett wants a second child and Bryte is determined that she won't go through that again. It seemed to have affected her significantly. She became a sort of shell of herself during that process and is perfectly happy to have one child. That part seems realistic, even her starting to look into going back to work so that it will be harder to go the fertility clinic. Everett was an only child and doesn't want that for his son because it was very lonely and awful apparently, so he keeps pressing the issue.

So much so, actually, that he plans a visit to the fertility clinic by himself to gather information and see what it will take to "get the ball rolling," and then bring that information back to Bryte as he thinks that maybe she is just a little post-traumatic-stressed and needs a little nudge.

Which to me doesn't sound like a very supportive, loving approach, but this does happen where two people diverge in their thoughts on family building options at some point in the journey.

The thing that really, really pissed me off though is that towards the end of the book, there's a sort of double double cross. Everett goes to the fertility clinic AT THE VERY SAME TIME that Bryte goes to meet a work contact whose business card she has kept since a meeting over two years ago for a drink to talk about a job, supposedly, and so they are both sort of betraying each other. Except when Bryte goes to meet this guy, it's clear they had something more than business going on before and he strangely looks JUST LIKE EVERETT, and then at the same time Everett goes to the doctor and is told FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME that he has severe male factor and cannot father his own biological children. A fact apparently left out of all their previous medical records.

A fact that Bryte knew during a medical appointment she attended by herself, and kept from Everett because she didn't want him to know this heartbreaking news, and then she had the recruiting meeting with the other guy who JUST HAPPENED TO LOOK LIKE HER HUSBAND and had sex EXACTLY ONCE and then got pregnant, POOF, with Christopher, who looks so much like Everett that she thought she was "home free."

Oh holy throw my Kindle across the room. First of all, what self-respecting doctor would share that information with you but not your husband, ever? I mean, I guess they didn't go back after she got pregnant and she didn't go to the clinic for her early pregnancy scans, so you could feasibly have that kept secret, but DON'T THEY TEST THOSE THINGS FAIRLY EARLY? Aren't they required to tell you your medical diagnosis, yourself? Wouldn't there at least be some sort of patient portal? The book takes place in 2014 so it seems records transparency would be the norm.

Also, I feel like the whole "I'm so desperate to give my husband the baby he desires I'll go off and do some sort of indecent-proposal secret affair thing with this doppelganger and NO ONE WILL EVER KNOW" trope is just stupid. It plays into the desperation. It plays into the "whatever it takes," but in a highly unrealistic fashion.

So, after having a crisis that his son isn't technically "his," and asking Bryte to leave for a whopping several hours, he even gives her the phone, asking her to redial and showing that he can look the other way while she goes and gets knocked up again with a sibling with this random guy who has no idea he has a genetic link out there. She says no. Even though the timing is apparently PERFECT and one shot can totally get you pregnant.

I think that was one of the things that bothered me most, was this idea that a one-time deal timed perfectly with a virtual stranger could get that bun in the oven. NO NO NO. So unrealistic.

Also, after they decide that she's not going to have sex with someone else to get pregnant with a sibling who looks like their son, they say that they don't want to do sperm donor or adoption because "the differences would be too obvious" from their son. Yeah, that's logical. Better to have a one-night stand and get the good stuff.

But, apparently, they change their minds because at a get together with neighbors at the end of the book someone says that "oh, a little girl would be so wonderful for you!" and their response is, "Well, we're thinking of adopting one!"

Tie the ribbon on nice and neat and tidy, they're just going to go out and adopt a little girl to complete their family, lickety-split. No mention of the difficulties that were so realistic in Truly, Madly, Guilty. No mention that selecting gender is highly discouraged in adoption, as it's not a baby store. And no mention of any thought process that led them to believe that adoption, having a baby that was "obviously different," was a good choice after all.

Trite, trite, trite. God, I really hated this plot in the book.


It's interesting to see how donor material is treated in fiction. While I wasn't expecting it, Truly, Madly, Guilty was fairly realistic and sensitively handled. The Things We Wish Were True was not. It was like the worst of soap opera plotlines, and treated like it was totally along the realm of possibility, and that that scenario was something a marriage could overcome, no problem. Oh, and they have no intention of ever telling their son that he is not biologically his father's, ever, so I'm sure that will work out great long term when he finds out (because you always find out)...and it makes me worried about their approach to adoption.

Really, I need to get a grip, because I am angry about a completely fictional marriage and a completely fictional group of people, but I just thought it played into so many things about donor and adoption (heritage doesn't matter, pretend there's not a difference, deception is okay if it gets you the family you desire). It's that whole "desperate infertile woman" thing, but I guess I have to give credit that the author also included a "desperate infertile man," something you don't see too often in fiction.

Read at your own risk. I would recommend Truly, Madly, Guilty as Liane Moriarty is a tremendous writer, so skilled at interweaving multiple perspectives around the same event. Just know that donor egg is a big (although not the biggest) part of it.

Personally, I would skip The Things We Wish Were True entirely. Although there was one quote that I really appreciated, about the only thing that I took away of value from the book:

"...there were things she wished were true, and there was what was actually true. She was learning that there was usually a great distance between the two."

That I can understand and find highly, highly realistic.


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Thankfuls

In this midst of infertility and not-yet-successful adoption, it can be hard to find things to be thankful for. I mean, I am looking at the consult for my hysteroscopy to figure out what the hell is going on in there this coming week, there's no profile opportunities to be seen, everyone asks for updates which I appreciate but it's hard when there's no update to give, and I am just TIRED. Plus the whole political climate thing that can bring a body way, way down.

But, two weeks ago in my co-taught English class there was a journal assignment...25 things you're thankful for. For some of my students it was easy, and ironically for some who have A LOT to be thankful for, it was hard. 25 things...I guess it is a pretty lengthy list! I thought I would give it a try. Spoiler alert: Infertility itself is NOT on this list.

1) My husband, Bryce, who loves me truly unconditionally and with a ferocity that at times I fear I don't deserve.
2) Bryce's baking abilities, which include making things like gluten free coconut custard pie and a pumpkin pie with stovetop custard involving candied yams as well. Come ON. So yummy.
3) My house. Even though we are running out of space and Bryce hits his head on the regular, it is warm and cozy and provides us with shelter and conveniences.
4) My job. I am so lucky to love what I do -- it's hard, that's true, but to have a job that is also a way of life and to feel like it's not just a job but a passion...so lucky.
5) My cats. Even Abner, the gross one who's currently sneezing everywhere (although perhaps I'm a smidge less thankful for him and the way he marks our home with his bodily materials). They are cozy, and Lucky sleeps next to me like a teddy bear and has grown resigned to me holding him like a baby. It's the little things.
6) My best friend's drives to yoga, because it gives us time to talk without interruption (a rarity when she's home since she has three kids 10 and under).
7) My best friend. She's known me since I was four, and we've been really really good friends since sophomore year of high school. Our lives are so different now, but we still get each other and make it a point to visit each other in person at least once per season. Actually, we're due for a visit...
8) My family. We don't always see eye to eye, but they are supportive and loving.
9) My ridiculous book collection. I love that I have, no joke, at least 20 books (probably way more) in the house that I haven't read yet, and thousands that I have. I can see them and return to them like old friends. I can shop for a book in my own home. It's lovely.
10) Bryce's ability to build bookshelves. Hint, hint, hint. Not sure where another one would go, but if we can make space he can make a beautiful piece of furniture!
12) My work friends. They see me probably more than anyone else, and appreciate (or at least tolerate?) my tendency to break into song when I'm tired or make inappropriate comments or jokes. They also get when teaching gets you bone tired or when you just need to vent.
13) My violin. I ignored it for a little while there, but I've been playing it more lately and I just appreciate so much the gift that was given about twenty years ago by both my parentals when I was in college. It's a beautiful instrument.
14) Being asked to play the fiddler in the play. It made me practice more, and it introduced me to a whole slew of kids I wouldn't have gotten to know otherwise. It made me brave.
13) Book club. The fact that I joined a club where I only knew my next door neighbor and now I have all these friends who are in totally different worlds than me (they work in finance and corporate things) but we are all linked by a love of reading and interesting books. And food. But mostly, the books. We seriously do a good job of actually discussing the book, and discussing it hard.
15) My garden. It's buried under snow, but I love the colorful, bee-filled chaos that is my garden. I love that it's wild. I love that it's more pollinator-based and less design-based.
16) Weeding. Out of season, but man I love weeding. So calming, and you can see progress pretty quickly. A satisfying chore.
17) My Dyson animal hair vacuum. Seems a silly thing to be thankful for, but holy hell does that do a good job picking up the cat hair two cats produce. Sort of like weeding, but with cat hair. I love vacuuming with it because you can just SEE how clean everything is after. (But also how quickly schmutz re-accumulates.)
18) My (relatively) new kitchen. Knocking down that wall and tying everything in to the dining room made our small house seem so much bigger, without an addition. And it's SO FUNCTIONAL. Love it.
19) Trader Joe's fruit jellies. They are just SO GOOD.
20) My friends I've had since college. They make me laugh, they encourage shenanigans, they understand when things are crappy.
21) This blog. It helps me process, it helps me connect to people who have had similar journeys to me and also very different experiences. It gives me perspective. It gives me an outlet. It helps me make sense of things I'll never truly make sense of, not totally. It helps me to see light at the end of various tunnels.
22) The community I've gotten to know -- people going through infertility, people parenting after infertility, people who've endured unimaginable losses, people who've adopted, people who are adopting, people who are living childfree not by choice. I am so, so grateful to you for your friendship and viewpoints and insight and support.
23) My sense of humor. The ability to laugh through things that should just make me cry all the time, the ability to give our circumstances the finger and enjoy life anyway.
24) The love I have for my husband, through all the things we have been through. Through every disappointment, every loss, every crushing blow, every small whittling of the dream that comes so easily to some but not to us. I am so lucky for our love.
25) The strength and perseverance I have within me that wasn't given by infertility but was there all along and given the chance to flourish in the face of adversity. The strength to fight for the possibility of a family, and to say enough when the time is right (to infertility treatment, and hopefully not to the possibility of adoption). There are times when I wonder if we push too hard, but I will never, ever have to wonder if we did enough.

Okay, I admit it...that was actually harder than I thought. 25 things is a LOT. (I want to add that of course I am grateful for food to eat and clean water and clothing to protect me from the cold...I didn't include those because I went in order without stopping, stream-of-consciousness style, and they seemed givens, but those are not givens. I am very grateful for the accident of my birth and the series of events that led me to live in a nice, fruitful area of New York.)

It's good to think on gratefulness from time to time, especially when it seems that life is so unfair, and to really think on all the things that are good and nurturing and helpful--all the things little and not-so, that really make that silver lining a plush thick one.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Oh, The Holidays

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the winter holidays for me. A big day of cooking and eating and family, and then off we go to the races of holiday parties and holiday events and Christmas Cards and the Christmas holiday itself.

Tomorrow will be fine. We are hosting Thanksgiving, and my husband's mom and stepfather are here from Maine and my parents are coming down and so we will have six people at our table. We are lucky, because there won't be people who aren't in the know about our family situation (or lack thereof), there won't be small children there, there won't be so many of the landmines and pitfalls that can beset a holiday dinner with family. There may be the off unintentionally thoughtless comment, but I think we can get through those. All in all, it will be not nearly as painful as it will be for others in our shoes, others wearing shoes we've worn before -- when no one knows the extent of your pain and you have to do a gritted smile through everything and try real hard not to scream when something thoughtless is said and attempt to make it through without drinking all the wine in the house.

The Christmas parties...they will be okay. We have a couple we're going to where I don't know very many people and neither does Bryce, and so the "do you have kids?" might come up, and I just don't have a socially appropriate answer to that one anymore. Much less when someone tells us how lucky we are not to have a babysitter or to get a full nights' sleep. Yes, yes, that's great, but we would RATHER BE HOME WITH A BABY, THANKYOUVERYMUCH.

One Christmas party might be challenging but I am trying to keep an open mind. Challenging because there are expecting people going to this one and some new mommies and women who are obsessed with all things babies and children, and I have nothing to offer there and do not at all want to listen to a birth story or birth plan or how hard it is to make it through the holidays without a glass of wine. Luckily, there's also another couple who has no children, and while their circumstance is different from ours, they will be our allies that night. (It will also be challenging because there's a fair number of supporters for our president-elect, and I can't keep my big mouth shut when people say things that are just plain ignorant. I try to do it with kindness, but holy hell it's going to be hard if there is spewing of vile crap at this party. My goal is to both keep to my personal integrity and NOT get my husband in trouble, ha.)

Another is my work party, and this is usually awkward because everyone talks about their families. Not like parents-family, but children-family. I have NOTHING to add here. I have given all the updates I have. The people hosting have two small children and the house is full of evidence of tiny lives, and that can be hard. It's easier when my other administrator hosts, because his kids are mostly out of the house and his oldest is a senior. Not a lot of tiny person detritus in that house.

And...cards. Heh heh heh, cards. So you will remember that last year our holiday card featured the beautiful adoption shoot that we did in November. Well, a year has passed and no dice (story of our lives), so we decided to do a different kind of shoot. When I have the photos I'll share, but let's just say we spent a fair amount of time on Sunday doing a shoot that I like to call "Norman Rockwell Gone Horribly Wrong." Very tongue-in-cheek. Very different vibe from last year's abject hopefulness, but still not sad. Darkly humorous. I hope it comes across the way I want it to. I mean, I hired a photographer and got my hair done in period early 1950s style and did my face the same, so I sure hope it's worth it! Gave me a chuckle, at least.
Sneak peek of hair and makeup...
Finally...Christmas itself. Last year we stayed home and had a tree and had our family Christmas just the two of us, with Boxing Day with my parents. We hoped it would be the last Christmas just the two of us. Well, it wasn't.

So what we decided was to throw our holiday into the fuckit bucket, and book four nights in Vermont. It feels somehow selfish to spend a family oriented holiday by ourselves in a setting that's entirely restorative and based on outdoor activities, reading by the fire, eating and drinking decadently... but then again, things haven't worked out as we'd hoped yet again and so this will keep us from being sad saps around a tree in our living room, alone with each other again. It's going to be great. It's what we need. I am SO looking forward to it.

And so, that is how we are getting through the holidays. I look forward to the cards we'll receive, with children who once were babies and now are reaching double digits, even though they mark a march through time we've missed. I look forward to the parties and the get-togethers and sending out our own snarky card that shows just how time has stood still, in a cheeky way. I look forward to hiding away from it all in the valleys of Vermont.

I can hope that next year will be different, but if it looks like this, that's not too shabby either. I am pretty darn fortunate. I have an incredible love, friends to celebrate with, and the resources to hide away in a snowy mountain retreat. Although all the pieces we'd hoped for aren't in place, we have a beautiful life, and I am very, very thankful for that.

I hope the holidays are kind to everyone this year. I hope you find a spot of brightness in what can be a dark time if your family isn't where you'd hoped it would be.