Tuesday, January 31, 2017

And Just Like That, I've Written 500 Posts

Well, it looks like I've been on a post-writing streak, because I wrote my 400th post in April...and now it's only the end of January and here we are -- 500 on the nose! 

Everything I said in the 400th post still applies: how grateful I am to have this community, how incredible it is to count among friends people from so many pathways, to listen to your stories, to feel heard in sharing mine. This connection over fiber is amazing -- I bring you into my cluttered desk filled with piles of books, papers, and embarrassingly outdated pictures of me and Bryce, and I get to visit you wherever your laptop/phone/desktop brings you. 

I appreciate everyone who comes to visit here, and who communicate their thoughts on my thoughts. Whether we agree or disagree, I appreciate your thoughts, your questions, your challenges. I love when you pop up to tell me you've been reading for a while but haven't commented, and I find out that I have friends, commiserators, supporters in such far away places as England and Kazakhstan. I love when you share your own stories in response to my thoughts. I know there are people who read and don't comment, and I appreciate you, too! 

I know it's not easy, living this twisty journey with me. It can be depressing to not see much progress in our seven years of trying to have a family. Maybe it is emotionally draining in some way to be a bystander. Maybe there is some empathetic atrophy that comes with witnessing heartbreak after heartbreak, and after a while it's hard to follow the story because of your own feelings, or not knowing what to say when I make it so clear which things aren't quite as helpful as others. 

I love the growing number of you that stick through it though -- who read the easy posts and the hard ones, the ones that may be difficult to hear as a person who was successful at some point, or who never had to go down this journey at all. It is difficult. It is difficult to live this, to see people come and go, to see pathways pass us by, to readjust our sails so many times and never quite make it to port. 

Thank you for reading. Thank you for the conversation. Thank you for the support. Thank you for hugging me (and/or calling me out) when I'm bitter, holding me in your hearts when I cry, cheering when there is good news. Thank you for allowing me to show all the parts of infertility and adoption and different paths to resolution -- the educational processes, the emotional pieces, and the ugly bits that can surface when life is difficult. It shows the full picture. Infertility and adoption are messy, and emotional, and bring up conflicted feelings. It is such a gift to have a community to hold hands with as I wade through it all, and as you wade through your own journey...whatever that might be. 

Here's to another 100 posts. Here's to the possibility of becoming a mom somewhere in that number. Here's to figuring out how to navigate what's next through the words that I type, words that hopefully resonate and bring hope, understanding, and compassion to the people who read them.

Monday, January 30, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: Things Left Undone

We need to buy our stroller.

We somewhat shamefully still have enough gift cards from our baby shower to cover the cost of the stroller we wanted, but we are really running out of space to put things for a baby that doesn't yet exist, and so we've been putting it off. We already have a back storage room that has our carseat, two bases, a red flyer wagon, bottle sterilizer, pack 'n play...and that doesn't count the drawer in the kitchen full of bottles, bowls, utensils, trees and flowers for the Lawn drying thingie...or the things upstairs in the nursery like the mini Nuna play yard thing for infants or the baby carrier or the vibrating bouncy seat thing or the play mat that lies under the crib. 

For some reason, adding the stroller, for as much as it folds compactly, seemed like a proverbial straw. 

And yet, I am nervous. What if our carseats, which are now a year and a half old, don't fit newer strollers? Do they remain compatible for longer periods of time than I fear? Has our stroller already become obsolete? I know I could call the store, but I just don't want to at the moment. 

We don't drive past the big baby store often, but when we do I'm wracked with guilt. I should buy the damn stroller. What's one more thing? 

Maybe that's what February will be. The Month We Buy the Stroller. It would be nice if it was also The Month We Became Parents, too, but at least the stroller is within my control. 

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

Monday, January 23, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: Cleaning and Clearing

Yesterday Bryce and I spent an hour or so going through our bedroom, at least the shelves in our bedroom, looking to get rid of things we don't necessarily need to hang onto so that we have space for the things we do want to treasure and hold.

Those shelves hold books, and it is always difficult to part with books. I am trying to be a sort of temporary-book-owner for some -- the ones that I know I won't reread again or want to have on hand to lend to someone who will feel infinitely better for having read it. But it's hard to clear out those shelves, even if the books go to a loving new home.

When we thought we might bring a baby home the next day, we decided to make good on our New Year's Intention to go room by room and clear things out  because it will be one less thing to worry about if we have another last-minute profile opportunity. We will be able to fit all the baby stuff in our compact house no problem because we've streamlined. Also, we want to get the house in shape so that if another house comes up, like the one that came up not once but TWICE in the past two years and still isn't ours for the taking, we can just put our house on the market and move.

Both are lovely possibilities -- I've written before about how this house is a hobbit house and actively tries to damage Bryce's amazing brain through concussions sustained on the low ceilings and dormers, so the prospect of moving is very appealing (despite the amazing location and wonderful neighbors and awesome new kitchen). I would love to have my own office. I would love a garage to put my car so I don't have to clean off the snow at 7 a.m. I would love to have one closet, off the bedroom, where I can keep my clothing instead of having two closets, one upstairs and one down, because the closet space here is just stupid.

It's nice to think about clearing for a baby, or clearing so we have the freedom to move either after that baby comes or if it doesn't.

I would love to just say screw it and move sooner than later, but we'd have to do it around our homestudy so as not to incur extra expense. And I really would like to be able to use the current nursery we set up with so much love and hope, to have the chance to have a baby live in that space.

Because if we don't get to use that nursery, I want to move to a new house that never had one set up, that is a fresh start, that never saw me do an injection or miscarry on the couch or dust a nursery that sat idle for over a year. I'd like to see things through in this house, even as I type at a cluttered desk in the living room while dinner cooks 20 feet away and it's just a matter of time before Bryce's head sports a new goose egg.

And so we clean, and clear things out, to make space for whatever might come our way.

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

Sunday, January 22, 2017

About Those Shoes We've All Been In

I have received an outpouring of support since our latest profile opportunity that came and went so swiftly. People have been overwhelmingly kind as we faced waiting for so long and then having a hope snatched away (that honestly there was more probability of the snatching away than clutching towards us due to the nature of the process). I am trying very hard to see the good intentions and overlook comments that are less than helpful, the Everything-Happens-For-A-Reasons and other platitudes involving plans I know nothing about. I would feel differently about those possibly if I were a religious person, but I'm not. If that is helpful to you and fits with your beliefs I mean no disrespect, it just really bothers me personally to think that there is some plan where people's suffering is required, where we have to wait 7 years so far without a child, a plan where it's necessary for people to receive cancer diagnoses and die young, where children die in horrific circumstances. I have a teacher friend who said, "you know, none of that is actually in the Bible. I am a Christian and I don't believe those sayings are actually helpful." Interesting perspectives.

You already know how I feel about offering up alternatives perhaps we haven't thought of. Strange, how no one says, "Have you thought about letting all this go and living childfree?" -- everyone who has offered support (outside the blogosphere for the most part) seems to find that option horrid and encourages me to keep the hope alive. It's as if they see that option as the worst, the one absolutely without hope -- it makes them very uncomfortable that I have increasingly been seeing that as one very real possible outcome to all this. I hope that adoption works out, but if it doesn't (because while some people might be able to do this indefinitely, I don't think we can) I have become okay with an alternate reality than the one I've worked so hard for for so long. It doesn't seem that others are, but it's not their life. It's ours.

And this is where the most annoying comment of "support" comes in. "Been there, done that." A harsher way of saying, "I've been in your shoes, I know how this will go."

Um, no.

You've been in YOUR shoes.

Not mine.

All of our shoes are, in fact, different. I don't believe that you can actually say, "I know just how you feel," or "I've been where you are," or "I've been in your shoes," or "Been there, done that" and have it be true.

All of our experiences are an accumulation of everything that came before. We have different treads. We've walked different paths to get to these particular footsteps. Our backgrounds and perceptions and actual experiences are rarely the same. They can look similar, and you can share what things felt like for you, or say "I can imagine how hard this is for you," but to say "I know exactly how you feel" or worse, "been there, done that" assumes an awful lot.

For me, this failure to make having a family happen rides on a lot of history. Very little in my life has gone the way I envisioned it -- my parents' divorce when I hit puberty, my father moving across the country, a first marriage that was not built on "to love and cherish, forsaking all others" but "to belittle and control, seeking 'comfort' elsewhere," a divorce at 30 as a new career was starting and I'd thought I'd have kids by that time (but was grateful I did not), a wonderful new chance at marriage...but then a horrifically long and as of yet incomplete journey to have a child. I was already well-versed in disappointment before we started getting negative after negative.

Everyone comes to their family building decisions from different places. Everyone tries different things. Everyone has different triggers for grief. There isn't one journey that's harder than another, but they are all very, very different. Coming to adoption after 13 IVF cycles that went awry at one point or another colors my experience. For someone else, having a miscarriage at a later date, or recurrent miscarriages, or a stillbirth could be the thing that colors their experience differently. Or they could come to the point where they are faced with IVF and decide it's just not for them for a wide variety of reasons. It's also possible to have someone who goes cycle for cycle with you, does all the same things, but because of their unique background or context or support structure or relationships, the experience is not actually the same. It's all so different. There are so many shoes.

I'm sure I have fallen prey to this at some point or another, because everyone is actually human (as far as I know). I do make a real conscious effort to not pretend that my experience is universal, though. It's not. I can speak to certain decisions that I've made that maybe you are making, but not pretend that my decision making process and yours would be the same. It's not. We come to things differently.

I feel that "been there, done that" is definitely the worst of this type of comment, because not only does it assume that your experiences are completely the same, it dismisses yours. It implies that your experience ended this way and therefore mine will, too, and there's no discussion around it. There's no acknowledgment of differences or challenges that are not actually the same. It's a conversation ender, not an empathetic beginning.

These shoes apply to so many things -- infertility, adoption, grief of many kinds, going through an illness, going through a divorce -- any challenging times. It's good to remember that while shoes look similar and we could actually buy the same pair, once we've walked in them a while they mold to our individual feet -- they take on the way we carry and shift our weight. They cease to be the same.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Why We Chose Agency Adoption, and Not Private

If you decide that you want to pursue adoption, you are faced with a lot of choices. International, domestic, or foster? Agency or private? In-state or out-of-state? Infant or older? And that's before you even get to decisions about exposures, openness, or the myriad possibilities to consider on a Child Interest Grid. 

We chose domestic infant adoption, and picked an agency to work with that people we knew had been successful with and that seemed to have to best placement rates of any local agency. We wanted the opportunity to parent from as early as possible -- we wanted to "miss out" on as little time as possible with our future child. We wanted our child to have the option of a relationship with his or her birth family -- to have as little mystery as possible and to know all the pieces. We could have done this with private adoption, but we chose agency. 

This is our perspective on the differences between agency and private adoption, and why we do not feel that private is right for us (even though it could totally be right for you). In no way am I intending to be judgy to those who have chosen one over the other, any more than I like to be judged for making the choice that we did. These are my thoughts on the two processes. 

With an agency, you have a central place for all things adoption. You are given a consultation where the process is explained to you and your motivations are discussed before you begin filling out and signing a daunting stack of paperwork. You have a place for adoption education classes. You have a point person to call regarding concerns or decisions that you struggle with. 

For us, one of the biggest pieces to having an agency is that they provide services to the women who seek help making a decision or making an adoption plan. They offer counseling to expectant women, that often includes all their options for accessing services that would make it possible, potentially, for them to parent their child. This is so important to us, because we want to be sure that the birthmother who may make parenthood possible for us is confident in her choice, that she knows all the alternatives, and that there is no sense of coercion. This is not to say that agencies haven't in the past been coercive in some way: America has a long and sordid history of adoption atrocities where expectant mothers weren't given choices, were told what they had to do, were denied the ability to have any contact with the child they may or may not have willingly relinquished. I'm sure there are agencies who do not have great practices now, too -- I am not naive to that. 

However, I feel that our agency very much has the interest of the birth parents in mind. They are very clear that they are there to find families for children, not children for families. They serve the interests of the expectant/birth families first. As adoptive parents, we are the ones who wait to see if we are chosen to parent someone else's child. It is so hard to wait to see if we are the ones who were the best fit, but it is infinitely harder to have to make the choice based on a book, Who will parent my child? Having empathy for birth parents doesn't make it any less difficult to go through the waiting and the possibilities that can be yanked away so swiftly, but it is helpful to remember that ultimately, the agency is there to support an expectant/birth mother in making the best decision for them, and that results in our parenthood. Not the other way around. 

I appreciate that the women who work with the agency chose to do so, and in most cases before adoptive parents are called about profile opportunities (where we get "in the running" to be chosen), they have already been counselled on the many ramifications of the decision. The agency isn't scooping up pregnant women. They have a presence at places like hospitals and Planned Parenthood, a web presence, but it is the woman's choice to make that call and/or to physically go to the agency and begin weighing out making a plan. 

The agency offers support, during the process and also after -- it can be frustrating to feel that you need to call more often than you receive some sort of check in, but I have not had the experience of calling and having no one respond to me. I can always get through to someone and work out a question or a concern, eventually. For me, the after support is so important. Support for you and for birth families, and most importantly for your child. 

Some downsides are that you are dependent on the agency to call you with opportunities -- if there aren't any that match you, or you aren't on the radar for whatever reason, there can be lulls with no activity. Agencies can be busy and have a lot of families that they are working with, and so you can feel a lack of immediacy, or that somehow you are forgotten or not as important. With an agency you surrender control of the process over to the social workers who determine profile calls and pull books -- you are waiting for calls and not a part of the process in an active way so much until you are matched, and even then you could have a situation where the expectant/birth mother prefers to have contact via the agency. Some women do not wish to work with an agency -- they may find it impersonal or have a mistrust founded in bad experiences they or others have had. 

But for us, the positives outweighed the negatives. 

Private adoption does not involve an agency at all in most cases. Instead, you have an adoption attorney to help guide you in your quest to search for an expectant/birth mother. 

That is the first difference -- instead of being in a pool of agency-selected books or information that is presented to an expectant/birth mother where she chooses which family to go with, you are actively searching for an expectant/birth mother yourself -- maybe she is also being approached by other prospective adoptive parents, or considering an agency, but you are the searcher. 

In New York, your attorney can only advise you on each situation. They cannot act as a resource for finding potential situations. They cannot be a placement opportunity presenter, they can only advise you on your advertisements or connections and set up the contracts and legal pieces for placement. You are the one who finds the person seeking an adoptive family for their child. 

How do you search? Through advertising. 

How do you advertise? You can have a 1-800 number, a website, pass-along cards, advertise in Cr.aigs' List or newspapers or online services such as Adop.timist or even Fac.ebook or Pint.erest. 

1-800 numbers lift financial burdens from expectant moms as you incur the costs, and they also provide you (and her) with the privacy of some level of anonymity, at first. You can have a 1-800 number directed to any phone (such as your cell phone) and have services that help you track area codes. You take on the opportunities and risks of answering the phone to women in crisis -- at a training we went to to explore this option we were told that most women who call for ads are in their first to second trimester -- they are trying to decide if this is the right option for them. You can have far more opportunities this way, but the risks are higher. There is a lower rate of follow through. In the training, it was explained as, "You will likely have a lot more contact and a lot more opportunities to have early matches with expectant moms, but the rate of placement is not actually higher." You have to be willing to understand that the phone will likely ring at any time, and you will need to prepare yourself to have a conversation that cannot in any way seem coercive (because if the court finds your adoption coercive, even if you didn't intend it, that will not work out in the end), that you are sure to not just focus on the pregnancy but on the actual live woman who is talking to you, and to prepare yourself that not everyone who calls is legitimate. There are red flags for scams, such as immediately asking about money or requesting money to talk further, inconsistencies in details, not following through on doctors' appointments or request for proof of pregnancy. These red flags don't mean it's not a real situation, but unfortunately you find yourself in the position to figure out if this is real or a scam, without offending the person. Also unfortunate is sifting through people who will literally call your 800-number to tell you that you are an awful person who is stealing babies. By putting yourself out there, you are opening yourself up to people who wish to hurt you. There is a lot of risk. 

On the other hand, while there is risk, there is also the possibility that you can find the right situation for you, and you have the control over the calls, the connection, instead of relying on an agency to do it. There are a lot of people who believe that it's better for this reason, and that it gives the expectant mom more power in the relationship as well. You can also choose how much you want to advertise -- a lot or a little. 

Something that turned me off the idea of advertising was some advice we received about where to advertise -- "think of places where someone who is in financial crisis might go -- a laundromat, a check-cashing place." Honestly, that sounded downright predatory to me. I sincerely hope that we don't have the situation where a family is choosing to place solely because of financial hardship -- that is a circumstance that breaks my heart because in my mind, that reason alone shouldn't have to result in placing your baby. There should be social services to help in those cases. It is hard to think that income inequality, the idea that we can afford to raise a child but someone else can't, could be the reason why we parent someone else's child. I am not naive enough to think that if we are presented with an opportunity and financial hardship is the only reason for placing, that we would say no to being considered, but it bothers me. A lot. The idea of preying on this possibility by advertising specifically where someone who is pregnant and in financial crisis would see it makes it feel coercive, manipulative, counting on someone else's desperation to make my dream of parenthood come true. It feels icky. 

Our agency offers a "Private Track" option as well -- where you do the searching and advertising yourself, and then you connect with a potential expectant/birth mother, and then when it seems that things are going well you refer them to the agency, where everyone can receive support (but also the agency receives fees from you, although reduced). Because that is another advantage of completely private adoption -- it is often much less expensive. 

In our mind, though, you and the potential birth mother receive less services for less money. In fact, in New York, the revocation period for private adoptions is 15 days longer if you adopted privately -- 45 days instead of 30 -- because it is assumed there is less counseling beforehand. If you do not do an agency private track, you do not have easy access to post-adoption services beyond required post-placement home study visits -- you are on your own. You can seek those services but privately. 

For us, the upside of more control over the process and more constant action was not even remotely worth the downsides. For us, the downsides are myriad: You must invest the time and money to not only set up the advertising but then be available at all times for calls that you need to sort through; I am not trained as a social worker and do not feel qualified to be the first contact with women who are deciding if this is the right choice or not; I do not want to vet out if circumstances are real or not, I very much appreciate the agency's experience in first contact; and for me, it was very eye-opening to be presented with the information that more profile opportunities through private do not result in more placement. My heart is raw from our long journey, from disappointment and loss. I do not think that I could handle thinking I am matched and having that fall through over and over again, being the person who the first and only contact. I know people who have been successful through private adoption, and this is a great option if you like the idea of being in control of advertising and connecting and running all those processes yourself, with attorney guidance. For me, that is unbelievably overwhelming. Putting together the profile book was stressful -- to build an entire website, to make cards and put myself out there to a much larger extent makes me intensely uncomfortable. I don't know when I would do all this and still hold my job that I love so much. The time is definitely a factor, but the emotional drain is probably the biggest deterrent for us.

It is good that there are choices. It is good that everyone can make the determination for themselves which route to take, what they are and aren't comfortable with. For me, I have seen people get matched and placed very quickly with our agency, and I have seen people wait for years. But the same is true of private. Going private does not mean that all of a sudden you will find the right match and it will all work out faster -- it could, it's possible that you could find that right connection right away -- but it can also result in a lot of false starts. Maybe if we had come to adoption sooner we would have the energy to sustain more of those ups and downs, but I do feel that for us, agency is best. We have weighed out the possibility of trying private to some extent if we need to renew our homestudy a second time, but in the end, our decision-making T-chart is clear. We will stick it out with the agency and see where that leads. Hopefully we are one of the lucky ones who has a match that ends with a placement. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: Have You Thought Of?

There is a question that infertile people are asked time and time again, especially when things go wrong, and it really needs to go the way of the dodo.

"Have you thought of..." 

Unless you are my doctor or my agency, this is not a great question. 

Because, I assure you, the answer is yes

Yes, we thought about gestational carrier, and we determined it was not an option for us. 
Yes, we thought about international adoption, but we found domestic adoption to be a better fit.
Yes, we thought about foster care, because anyone entering into foster care had better think about what is required, but we determined it was not an option for us.
Yes, we thought about private adoption, but we have about a zillion reasons why that is not for us. 

Not choosing any of these options does not mean we don't want it badly enough, that we're not trying to the best of our ability to have a family. Our reasons are very personal and grounded in experiences and conversations that are nobody's business but ours. I always feel like I need to justify myself when asked this, and sometimes I do. But the truth is...I don't have to.  

Pretty much anyone going through infertility has thought through all of the options, and the decisions that were made were made very carefully. I know that it is meant to be a helpful question, and it comes from a place of love (most of the time), but I beg of you -- unless it is something very new that hasn't yet become available to the public, save it. It's been considered.

That question feels like it is a judgment on our choices, which were difficult beyond measure and individual to our circumstance. Instead, when the going gets tough, maybe try for "I'm so sorry, this sucks so much," or "I love you and I'm sorry you're going through this," or "What can I do to help you during this difficult time?" These are far more supportive options that don't call into question whether or not we've truly thought through our decisions on this journey.

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

Sunday, January 15, 2017

IVF vs Adoption Waiting

Bryce and I were chatting the other day, the one where we thought our wait might come to an abrupt end if we were the lucky ones chosen. We were thinking on how different the waiting and process was with IVF from the waiting and process for adoption. It wasn't a comparison to determine which one was harder, but a comparison to figure out how we felt about each.

IVF Process and Waiting
- IVF is all about the calendar. You get on the calendar for a cycle after completing all the requisite tests or retests, and then you have a baseline to see where you are and if you can start. Sometimes you have to wait to get on that calendar, because of clinic scheduling issues or lab cleaning dates or your own personal timing. One thing I liked about IVF was that you could pick your timing, to an extent -- one month over another, avoid the holidays, do it over the summer so you're not teaching and can focus on the process. So that's a plus. If your clinic is busy and you have dates you want to do but they are not available, that's a minus.
- It's a whirlwind. You have the calendar and the injections and the calls from the nurses after blood draws and ultrasounds. You can see progress in those rising numbers (hopefully). You have specific dates to hang on to and there is a progression. However, you have to wait in between each ultrasound/bloodwork combo and hope that your ovaries are doing what they're supposed to. There is the possibility between each appointment that something can go wrong -- your lining might be too thin, your estrogen might be too low or too high, your follicles aren't growing at a consistent rate. There is the possibility of cancellation or a poor outcome, so waiting for those numbers and those doses can be very, very stressful. I never had that experience until the last year of treatment, when I had an estrogen crash and a lining that refused to cooperate. A cancelled cycle is devastating -- it's hope, stilted. It's medication, wasted. It's your body, refusing to do what you wanted it to.
- You have your retrieval and recover from that, and wait to see how many eggs were harvested, how many fertilized, if transfer will be Day Three or Day Five, and how many if any will be frozen for future attempts. This time is fraught with worry and possible disappointment -- and I was always loopy on pain meds and often trying to avoid OHSS symptoms, which magnified fears of the many possibilities for things to go awry.
- You (hopefully) have your transfer, and wait to find out what happened. This is that dreaded Two Week Wait, where you inspect your underwear for implantation bleeding and analyze every abdominal twinge or change in your boobs. This is where you hope and hope for the best, talk to your belly and try to encourage all that hatching and attaching and multiplying to happen, and attempt to not pee on a stick.
- Your blood test goes one of three ways (yes, three). You are given a negative and sink into shock and depression, and either stay there a while or immediately make plans for the next round (or next plan if this is far from your first rodeo). You are given a positive and are now faced with waiting for each beta to make sure all is good with the world and hope that this little babyling is here to stay, that you will be one of the lucky ones. OR, you are given one of those lovely, "It's positive, but..." calls where you are stuck in a horrid limbo of low beta numbers, waiting to see if this is a chemical pregnancy that began and ended all at once, if it is an ectopic pregnancy, if it is an abnormally developing pregnancy that draws out the period before you realize it's unviable, or if you are one of the rare lucky ones who has wonky numbers but everything works out fine.
- If your call was negative or turns out to be positive but fleeting, you have to wait to get in with your doctor or clinic for the "what just happened?" meeting. You wait to make a new plan -- maybe that involves surgery or testing before another round. Maybe they will suggest you try donor material. Maybe you decide you want to get second opinions, try another clinic. Regardless, you wait and start the whole cycle again unless you decide to exit this process.
- If you were referred to try donor material, a lot of these waits change. Scheduling is no longer up to you if it's egg donor -- you have to be fit in when a donor (that either you or your clinic chose) is available, when she can do another cycle (or her first), and you wait to see how she is doing with all the medications so that you can have the transfer. Gestational carrier is similar and actually can be laden with layers of timing issues if you are doing that AND egg donor -- so many schedules involved, so much out of your control. This is if gestational carrier is an option for you, fiscally and legally, as it's not truly legal in all states, and emotionally, too, as there's a lot that goes into that process. Donor sperm doesn't really change the timing of things in terms of the cycle, but you may have to wait for vials to become available and arrange shipping, which adds layers of stress.
- If your call was positive, you wait with baited breath to make sure it's TRULY positive, that you are really going to make it through this process. You know too much about what can go wrong. You have to decide for yourself when the point is where you can let some of that breath out -- is it a heartbeat? Is it 12 or 13 weeks? Is it anatomy scan? Is it viability? Is it birth? So many choices, depending on your history and the history of those you know. So you wait. And wait. And wait.

Adoption Process and Waiting
- Adoption is all about completing paperwork and being ready to accept a child, but not having any clue when that will happen. This is based on our experiences with domestic infant adoption -- I don't know enough about other processes to speak intelligently about them: so you get mine.
- First you register with an agency, filling out (in our case) 22 pages of paperwork. You wait to be scheduled for a consultation where you get your handbook, your folder of paperwork for homestudy completion, and talk through your decision.
- You fill out the massive amount of paperwork for your homestudy, and schedule your education classes.  Hooray for something on the calendar! You can't schedule your homestudy visit until your paperwork is complete and you've finished your classes. You wait to be matched with a social worker who will do your home study and then wait for the dates put on your calendar for those actual meetings.
- You meet with your social worker and try not to freak out that you feel very much evaluated and scrutinized, even though that's not technically why they are there. They are there to make sure you can care for a baby and you are prepared for the realities of parenting an adopted child, and you have thought through your Child Interest Grid, the most stressful part of the paperwork. How do you decide what you will consider and what's beyond your scope? How do you not feel like a fascist? This is when you start seeing the irony of going all organic and getting rid of all plastic food storage in favor of glass when it was you who might have been pregnant, and now seriously thinking, "Well, heroin exposure's not THAT bad." You discuss all these things and then wait for your report to come out, hopefully favorable.
- While you are waiting to be homestudy approved, you make your profile book. Or you make it earlier. I waited until we were waiting for the report, because I'd heard it took 4-6 weeks, and then our social worker was a beast who handed it in about a week later so all of a sudden we were homestudy approved but NOT profile-ready. Whoops. Making the profile book is a special kind of hell, but that's all on you. So if it takes longer, it's your own making, but you want it to be the PERFECT representation of you as a family for this mystery baby, so rushing is not an option. Questioning every decision, every photo, every spread is totally an option. Examining your life and declaring yourself old and boring is an option. Crying and wailing "Who's going to want to pick US?" is also an option. But then you pull your shit together, get people to look at it, get it approved, and then hit PRINT AND SHIP and know that it is what it is. Our life in a 20 page picture book.
- And then...the waiting begins. There's no more dates until you reregister and update your homestudy, which you hope to the high heavens that you DON'T have to do, but know in the back of your mind is entirely (and likely) within the realm of possibility. It's just an endless sea of waiting.
- Your books are at the agency, and you hope they get the chance to be shown, but you fear they just sit in a drawer and molder while younger, more religious, less boring couples fly out the door. You wait and wait for a call that your book is going out.
- And then it happens! You get a call. You get the details, you write them down frantically and then call your husband or wife or whoever else is in this with you. You decide if you will accept the opportunity or not -- sometimes you have over a weekend, sometimes you have until the next morning, and in a situation like this past week, you have very little time at all to decide. You call the agency back, and if you said yes...you wait. (Unless it was a blind profile, in which case you find out that you are chosen already and you are matched, waiting for placement.)
- For all other calls, you wait and wait, maybe for a very short time if it's last minute, maybe for a few days, maybe for a week, or in some cases, even longer. The longest we've waited is two weeks. It was a very long two weeks. I know people who never got a call back, because it was an indirect opportunity through an adoption attorney's office in another state, and they don't always follow up. Which is weird, to get a call that you're being considered and then have it just vanish into the ether. Waiting for that call is torturous, because there IS NO TWO WEEK WAIT. There's no marked calendar day to look forward to or dread. It could literally come at any time. You see the area code for your agency and hope it's the "results" call, and then wait for them to tell you it's a match or you weren't chosen.
- If it's a match, which I have zero experience with, you wait some more. Maybe you meet with the expectant parents. Maybe you go to appointments. Maybe you wait to be told she is in labor and find out when you have to be near the hospital, because it's not a given that you'll be welcome IN the hospital. Those plans change. It's a very difficult time for the expectant mother, and your job as an adoptive parent (potentially) is to go with the flow, to accept that this time is very emotional and physically difficult and things can change quickly. Which means more waiting. And hoping that you leave that hospital with a baby, even though it means you are leaving behind someone instrumental to this process who is grieving and leaving without the baby they've carried all this time. It's bittersweet, I can imagine. Then you wait for the revocation period to end (which in NY is 30 days) which is followed by the wait for finalization, when the baby truly becomes YOUR baby, legally. That can take months and even a year or more depending on the situation.
- If it's not  a match, if the answer was "she chose someone else," you try to hold your shit together on the phone so that you sound disappointed but optimistic, so that you sound well-adjusted, and you ask if there's any info that can be shared about why you weren't chosen (sometimes it's there, sometimes there's really nothing other than that the book that "got it" somehow was more connected, which leaves you with nothing to cling to), and then you say "I hope to hear from you again soon, thank you!" and gather yourself before you tell your partner that it was a no. And then you wait for the next call. Maybe it comes a few weeks later. Maybe it's a month. Or, maybe, it's a long spell of no calls, like March to January (which was our case). And then you wait with absolutely nothing to hold on to, no calendar, no sense of when the next call will come, and you call the agency from time to time to remind them that, you know, you exist.

There. Both hard, right? Here was our determination:

IVF waiting is predictable, but hard. It's physically hard, but you do have timing to hang on to. You have a defined process. There are steps and things happening ALL THE TIME that make you feel like progress is being made, even if ultimately it's not and you get no after no. When waiting with IVF, you blame your body for everything. You look for what it's doing or not doing that could lead or not lead to your pregnancy. You and your body are intricately woven together in this wait, and if it doesn't work out, you feel personally responsible (even as you know that's not logical). It's a defined cycle of waiting that repeats, over and over, until you decide that you've had enough -- or you are a lucky one and get pregnant and hopefully exit with a baby. You have time to get used to that baby, because you have a pregnancy. Some of the hope and joy in that pregnancy has been tainted with the possibility of loss and hardship and the scars of all you went through to get here, but you have some idea of when this tiny human is arriving, and you can get used to the idea. In theory.

Adoption is an all or nothing process. There is absolutely nothing to hold on to in terms of your calendar. There is no guarantee of when calls will come, and even less that you will be the lucky one chosen. The good thing is that your body is completely removed. You do not have that sense of being somehow personally responsible. It is, however, very hard to have your life rejected. Okay, maybe that's harsh. Not rejected as much as passed over, because it could be, "hey, these people look great, but these OTHER people have that something I just can't pass up!" It's very, very hard not to take it personally. I have a tendency to look at our book when we're waiting and think of all the reasons why we wouldn't get picked, which is crazy, and our social worker has told me that that really doesn't accomplish anything and that our book is fabulous (please note that I couldn't help telling my social worker about this not so great habit, oh well). It is very hard to feel like your life wasn't up to snuff, even logically knowing that every expectant parent has different criteria and what might stand out one time will be different another, and it could be something as simple as they had a dog and we don't, or they had lots of cousins for the baby to play with, or, as we are finding is the case more frequently than makes us feel good, they had a child already and so siblings are a given. We can't offer that. So we wait. And wait. And wait. And then have the possibility of going from not-parents to parents in a very short period of time, without the benefit of a pregnancy with a known end date (even knowing that that baby can come early, you have a sense of timing about the whole thing). There can be no grace period. And if there is a grace period, you're waiting to see if this is really going to happen. You have to temper everything, or risk becoming completely emotionally exhausted.

I guess that's the difference -- with IVF you are physically exhausted and emotionally exhausted, but you have dates to hang on to. You have a chance of success as often as you can schedule a cycle. With adoption, you are emotionally exhausted because you are waiting with nothing to hang on to, and things can change very, very quickly. Or you can think you're all matched up and ready to go, and minds can be changed. You have to wait knowing these things, but it's a very different thing to know that difficult situations can happen and then to actually live through them. In IVF it's your body on the line -- will it do what it's supposed to, or will it screw you over? In adoption it's your state of mind and a sense that your life is up for review and coming up lacking somehow.

They are both very, very hard. It's incredibly exhausting to have gone through all the waiting of IVF and been left empty-handed, and now have all the waiting of adoption and emotional rollercoasters that accompany that process: all the uncertainty and waiting for something without any kind of due date or treatment calendar. We are resilient, and we have bounced back time and time again. It just seems like our ball bounces just a tad less high each time. Seven years of waiting in one form or another is an awful lot to endure -- you can't keep it up forever and stay intact. I hope we get the chance to end this waiting, to begin a life free of all the uncertainty of whether it will happen and with all the regular uncertainty of "am I doing this parenting thing okay? Is my child safe and healthy? Am I making the right choices? Are they?" that is to come, should we be so lucky. And if we aren't...if our ball no longer bounces but rolls half-heartedly on the floor, then we will have a life free of uncertainty -- one we didn't plan for but can certainly enjoy just the two of us, finally free from the hell that is waiting.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A Really Fast Cycle of Hope and Sadness

It's been a very interesting 24 hours. And by interesting I mean exciting, and terrifying, and hopeful, and pragmatic, and devastating all at once.

Yesterday at 1:45 I received a call from our agency, a BABY call as I explain it to my students when my phone goes off in the middle of class (and yet it's rarely actually a baby call). It was a last minute placement, a really last minute placement, as they needed an answer in 45 minutes or so since they were bringing profile books to the hospital at 3:30 the same day. The baby had been born the day before, and whoever said yes to this opportunity had to be ready to go to the hospital and be placed with the baby the very next day, within 24 hours -- including dropping all the fees and everything. There were no red flags for us in the profile opportunity. We said hell yes.

Then I started freaking out. I realized that this meant that if we were chosen, I would be going out on maternity leave THE VERY NEXT DAY. The agency said that they'd call either by 5 or in the morning (they open at 9), and it depended on how long the birthparents took to make their decision. I really wanted to know before going to sleep (because HOW DO YOU SLEEP in this situation), but I also really wanted them to take their time and make the decision that was right for them.

We didn't get that call by 5.

So what do you do when you could be a parent tomorrow, or things could continue on, status quo, stuck in stasis?

It is not easy, I will tell you that. We knew the sex of the baby, so I asked, "What if we revisit our names and narrow it down a bit?" because that sounded like a fun way to pass the time. Bryce had concerns: "What if we pick a name and then this baby doesn't turn out to be ours? Is that name done?" Interesting question. I said no, because it wouldn't be attached to a baby we'd met, so it would still be fair game...if we had met the baby, named the baby, and then found out that we weren't taking that baby home that would be a different story. Just to be safe we narrowed it down to four, two clear favorites, and two different middle names. (No, we are not sharing these. Everything is so crazy about our process, we want to hang on to something "traditional!") We actually identified one new name for the list, so that was something that we can take with us.

Bryce wondered if we should be pragmatic and pack something up in case we had to go to the hospital the next day. I said no. Absolutely not. I do NOT want to pack a diaper bag with a little outfit and a couple diapers and wipes and a receiving blanket and whatnot, and then have it sit there, unused, needing to be unpacked. Nothankyou. So we didn't.

We reviewed the agency's handbook section on the paperwork you would sign, which was very responsible. And then we opened up a bottle of wine, which was maybe not so much but our thinking was, hey--we're not celebrating as much as taking advantage of what could be our last night of not-parenthood. Bryce thought maybe we should go out to fancy restaurant, a sort of "last hurrah," but I remembered all the "last hurrah" nights out we took during IVF, before a cycle started, and I just didn't want to do it. Also, I was tired -- in part from a long day at school, and in part from this building excitement over a possibility that could change our lives so quickly.

Because that was the thing -- to spend an evening wondering if tomorrow is the day you become parents is surreal. It was a bit scary -- all of a sudden I felt very inadequate and unprepared, but then it disappeared (somewhat) as I imagined having that baby placed in my arms, picking the baby up, and having that first moment of Oh holy jeezum, this is it, the moment I've been waiting for...I am a MOTHER. This baby is mine to care for. And then the moment where Bryce held the baby (a moment he, like many guys, is so nervous about), and we sat together and gazed at this tiny human that we didn't create but that we will raise together...and POOF! I could see our first family moment in my mind.

I also had some weird thoughts:
What do you wear on the day you might become a mom?
Oh no, my desk is SO not clean.
Wait, I'm going on maternity leave tomorrow if this works out? I won't see half my kids again unless I can visit! 
They give you diapers and formula in the hospital, right? 
Should we set up the bottle sterilizer thingie and make sure we know how it works? 
Do I need to wash baby clothes tonight just in case, because they're stale and haven't been washed since last year? 

I opened the door to the nursery. I turned the light on low. I looked around and thought, is tonight the last night you're empty?

It is so hard not to dream in these situations.

I know that it's better to be pleasantly surprised than bitterly disappointed, and I know the realities of profiles -- it's like The Highlander -- there can be only one. If there were four books, there was one happy call and three "better luck next time" calls. I knew the chances were more in the "better luck next time" camp. But how do you not plan for something that could happen in less than 24 hours?

I went to bed wondering if we were going to bed the two of us and waking up parents.

It was incredibly difficult to go to school and act like everything was normal. I am strangely good at dissociating from this, after all we've been through. I can pretend to be okay when I'm a wreck. To a point.

I had told people in part because the call came when I was about to teach, and partly because if I was going to be going out without much notice I felt I needed to let the people directly affected know. So a lot of people were in our corner. In fact, I am totally overwhelmed with how much support we received today, throughout the day.

Because at 9:20, I received the call. And it was a no.

I was okay on the phone. I was okay on the phone with Bryce. How disappointing, but we'd had such a short time to get excited, and it was thrilling to get so close. Maybe we'd get another call sooner, since the last profile call we received was in MARCH. 10 months ago.

And then... I lost it.

I felt all the hope and promise of those hours, all the joy of thinking that we might finally make it to parenthood and be done with all this waiting and being on hold and finally, FINALLY move on to the next part of our lives. It felt like the floor was yanked out from underneath me, and all the realism of thinking we'll have more chances in the future was overshadowed by how long it took to get another profile call, and how the silence was so empty for so long that I started not really thinking about it quite as much. It wasn't feeling all that real, and then all of a sudden it had the potential to get SUPER real, SUPER quick, and then...nothing.

I will admit that I was a teensy bit short with a few people who saw me and said "Everything happens for a reason." One was someone I don't even really know and I said, "I appreciate that you are trying to be helpful but I patently disagree with that statement, having been through so many things for which I can't fathom a reason." I told another person who told me that God was waiting for just the right moment to bring me someone very special, and that he wouldn't put me through all this if it wasn't for something great, and I said, "Well, I've been waiting a second grader, which just seems an inordinate amount of time and there's been so much pain in there that I can't say I agree with you, but thank you." Then I just said thank you and swallowed my thoughts because I just didn't have the energy to explain how empty "Everything happens for a reason" or "It will be your time next time" feels when we've been at this for so. very. long. I hid in the Lead Teacher's office and cried while the librarian covered my 3rd period class, and then realized that if I stayed there random people could walk in to pick up printouts and I just really didn't want that. So I tried to look like a human-like-substance in the hall, went to the bathroom and rinsed my face a bit, and went down to Guidance.

The school psychologist let me sob and was so helpful, even closing the blinds for additional privacy. She convinced me that I didn't need to pretend everything was okay. I didn't need to "Pull myself together." I could go home and be messy there. Maybe that would be a better choice than being at the verge of tears and crying between classes for the rest of the day. I had the blessing of my principal, who was so disappointed for us (and had called the night before to offer his thoughts and let me know I could call him ANY TIME if the news was good and I would be going out on leave at the snap of a finger). I tried to say I had things to do, there was a quiz tomorrow that I wanted to help students prepare for and I felt bad for letting them down...and the school psychologist said, "We give ourselves too much credit...the world can go on without us and it will be fine. You need to go home and take care of yourself."

So I did.

I am feeling much better now. I put all the materials we looked at last night away. My mom stopped by to give me a hug. Bryce got takeout for us for lunch. A friend whisked me away to a see a happiness-making movie at 4 (LaLa Land, which I loved). I changed into yoga pants and a cozy shirt. I made some Tension Tamer tea. Those aren't in order, but I think followed the charge to "Take care of myself." I talked with Bryce, and we discussed our feelings about it all. The disappointment. The exhaustion. The positive point that we were profiled and it could happen again, but the incredible toll that kind of whirlwind takes on you emotionally.

This is the process, though. We cannot have a baby without it. We need to accept these ups and downs, the crickets in the waiting and the whiplash of last minute profile calls for which we aren't selected. We need to subject ourselves to this dichotomy of long silences and then hope followed by sadness so that we can get to the profile opportunity that is OUR baby, where we DO get chosen. I need to grow a thicker skin for future opportunities. I think this one hurt so much because it had been so long since our last opportunity and this one could have been such a fast transition to parenthood. Had it been us that was chosen, we might have been home now with our infant, lost in the confusion of brand new parents without the benefit of a pregnancy to at least gradually get used to the idea that this tiny human will come and be ours to care for. But that's not what happened. Not this time.

It's good to know that we really can take last-minute profiles, that we are ready (even though my desk won't likely be less messy in the days to come). It's good to know that we are being profiled again. It's good to know that last year all of our calls came in January through March (the early July thing wasn't a profile call but a blind profile that fell through before they called us, so it counts in my mind as one of the five opportunities we've had in 17 months, but not as a profile call), so hopefully we are going to receive more in the coming weeks and months. Hopefully it just takes one more.

I swear, if I hear anyone say to anyone "why don't you just adopt," I am going to smack them. Hard.

Monday, January 9, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: Teaching The Giver Through My Lens

A few years ago, I mentioned how awful it was to teach the book The Giver** by Lois Lowry when my co-teacher clearly did it through his linear-life lens. Lots of "in our world, ANYONE can have a baby! NO ONE in our world applies for a child!"

The first year I was in the midst of IVF, and this message of sex=baby both irritated me and left me in barely concealed tears. The second year I was heading into the adoption process, and was far more vocal -- "You know, I am actually in a sense applying for a baby. Doesn't quite work the same, but not everyone has babies through sex." Last year I was more confident in the same type of comments. This year I added in how interesting it would be if EVERYONE had to "apply for a baby," like I am, to go through all the requirements and thought processes and vetting. And how I'm a little jealous of a yearly Ceremony where people receive their babies they've applied for, instead of waiting for an indefinite period of time.

Every year it's gotten better. Somehow, I got him to see through my particular lens, and now he offers up some of the more inclusive wording without me having to jump in. I feel like it's a little win for the twisty life stories: for me but also for the students whose lives aren't quite as neat and tidy, who probably feel a bit alienated by the assumption that everyone's life paths are pretty homogenous.

**OH HOLY JEEZUM, please go read the linked post, because I totally forgot how very awful the first Giver experience was when there was no thought to other parenthood paths or lenses. We've come a long, long, LONG way from that hideousness. And also, now I run this discussion in our blended sections. Because I don't shy away from health-class-type talk and I can speak with authority on all the ways you can have a baby without having any sex at all. Well, from a theoretical standpoint.

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

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Oh, Disturbing Memes

I was scrolling through facebook the other day (briefly, because you know I'm trying to reduce aimless phone time) and my eye caught a meme in my feed, originally posted by RESOLVE.

This meme:
Unsure how to credit but I got it from RESOLVE's page. 

It was meant to be a ha-ha. It sort of filled me with fury and distaste instead, for a couple of reasons.

1) The whole "Money can't buy happiness" and yet it CAN thing. Um, I know you spend lots of money on IVF or various other infertility treatments or adoption in the hopes of having a family that will bring you happiness, but this idea that YOU BOUGHT HAPPINESS makes me uncomfortable. It's a tiny step away from I BOUGHT MY BABY: something often stated by critics of IVF but especially third-party reproduction or adoption -- anything where money exchanges hands and it results in a human joining your household. It brings up this whole murky thing where we did not buy donor eggs or donor sperm or sell our embryos and we are not buying the baby we hope to adopt, but money does change hands for services and expenses around those processes (and the sperm donor one is really hard to argue because we did, literally, "Add to Cart" on that one). But to say that paying for IVF is "buying happiness" really blurs that line and stirs up icky silt. Not to mention, you can't actually buy happiness.

2) Bringing the monetary thing into it really highlights the financial inequity of IVF. IVF is not actually accessible to everyone because it is costly, and if you need higher-level interventions like donor material or gestational carrier, the costs skyrocket quickly. Ditto for things like assisted hatching, intralipids, IVIG, genetic screening. If you can't afford it, IVF or complicated IVF is simply not an option for you. You can go into debt (as many, many people do), but it becomes a heavy weight overshadowing this supposed happiness you've bought. And many people do not see IVF as an affordable option and don't pursue it, especially since it is largely not covered by health insurance in the U.S. and other countries. And so they are excluded from this sort of happiness. That apparently you can buy.

3) IVF does not equal the couple in the picture with the baby. This meme perpetuates the great fallacy that IVF works! Every time! Well, almost every time! But hang in there, it will work if you just KEEP THE FAITH! And keep paying out all that MONEY! The truth is, there are very few people for whom IVF works the first time. Most people experience more IVF failure than success, if they are lucky enough to be able to pay for multiple rounds in the first place. And for a largely meme-ignored but larger-than-you-would-think population, it never ultimately works. I take exception to this meme, because it leaves out the many, many people for whom IVF failed. Where vast sums of money were spent and yet it did NOT buy happiness. Tens of thousands of dollars (I started counting it all up in my head last night and then stopped because it literally made me feel ill, but let's say between the price of a seriously luxury car with all the options or a small home in the city near where I live) that never brought anything more than the most fleeting moment of happiness. I didn't even get a heartbeat for all that money. I did get a tube removed thanks to an ectopic, scarring in my uterus due to multiple hysteroscopies, the experience of an early miscarriage, and years of emotional trauma and exhaustion that will in some way haunt me to the end of my days in some form or another. Maybe not daily, but I will hold this grief forever. Hopefully I will also hold a baby in my arms, through adoption (and NOT bought happiness), but I worry that my too-long, too-many stint with IVF wore down my stamina. Not my capacity to be a mother or desire motherhood and parenthood for the two of us, but my emotional ability to stay in this limbo for additional years. Because I looked at the comments on this meme on the original site, and someone did protest the message that this meme is hurtful for those IVF did NOT work for, but someone else commented my FAVORITE, "At least there is another way..." I'm assuming this person meant adoption, which is another way if again: you can afford it, it is even available to you, the additional layers of complexity in parenting a child who has birth parents and developing relationships with said birth parents are a challenge you're up for, traveling and cultural layers if you are adopting internationally, court dates and healing from trauma and the possibility of not parenting a foster child you'd hoped to adopt if pursuing foster adoption, you are prepared for the heartbreaks of failed matches or other outcomes where you don't bring a baby home you thought you were, you are ready to wait a possibly very long time (after possibly waiting through infertility treatment already)...and on and on and on. But please, say "AT LEAST there is another way." So helpful.

I find this meme disturbing, in part because it is an extension of the myth that IVF works most of the time. I also find it disturbing because I wonder if I had been successful earlier on, would I feel the same way? Would I have given it a heart or a LOL face? Or would I have stopped and given a thought to the other people who might see that meme and think, WOW is that EVER not for me? and commented on its insensitivity despite my own success? Would I have given that a second thought, or just reveled in my bubble of it worked!? I don't actually know. I'd like to think it would bother me no matter what, but I am colored by my own experience over the past seven years and have a hard time accessing the me that was all hope and rainbows about IVF, or an alternative reality where this chapter of our story ended with a pregnancy and a birth and a child.

What irritates me is not the success part of the meme. It's this part, "Whoever says that money can't buy happiness has never had to pay for IVF," that pretends to be inclusive but really excludes and patently ignores those of us who paid and paid but were left without the happiness. It assumes a lot. Lately I am sensitive to a feeling that the only story that's valued on social media is the one that ends with a pregnancy or a baby, and it makes me feel like a marginalized group within a marginalized group. I don't want to take away from the joys from those who are successful, really I don't.  This meme, unlike the other "miracle" ones that rub me the wrong way but I get and can pass by without comment, is in bad taste for everyone.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

New Year's Intentions

Bryce and I went for a walk the other day and talked about our intentions for this coming year. Our goals, singly and together. I don't really like to call them resolutions, because those tend to get broken and not taken entirely seriously once February is over: intentions sound somehow more likely to stick.

Here's a short list of things we intend to do in 2017, to try to make it a better year: 

Schedule our time better. Don't overschedule it, but when we say we are going to do something (like go see an art exhibit, or spend four hours attacking a cluttered part of our house) we need to put it on a calendar and make it so. Also, get a physical, visual, write-able calendar up and displayed in our kitchen again. We do so much better with time management when all our time slots are staring us in the face. 

Make time for downtime. REAL downtime. We used to do this thing called Luddite Night. No technology, no lights even, just candles (the bright white ones and lanterns) and books, or a board game, or coloring (before it was a craze). Somewhere in the past six years or so that went away, and we want it back. On the calendar, twice per month, and if we have to cancel we'll treat it like the dentist and reschedule it ASAP. This is going to be tough when National Board ramps up (halfway done!) and Bryce's new 4-day-per-week course schedule starts at the end of January, but time to unplug and unwind will help keep us sane in those hectic moments. 

Spend less time on our phones. We set up a Phone Box for the coffee table so we could be less distracted, but it's not enough. I just watched a whole video on how the smartphone phenomenon releases dopamine and is just as addictive as alcohol, cigarettes, or gambling. It was sobering because in listening to this guy talk about how damaging constant phone time is I realized I was guilty of frittering away my time, of not being totally present, of being Pavlov's dog to the bings and bongs of notifications. I turned off my facebook notifications (I only see them if I open the app and they are silent) and I think I need to turn off my email notifications, too. Once upon a time nothing beeped at me to let me know that someone said something or liked something or that there's a coupon at Barnes and Noble. My phone has become a time suck, and I don't get all that much out of it in return. Except for blogging comment emails. Those always make my day, unless they are spam. 

Create more. For me, this means write more. I did a pretty good job in 2016 writing more posts -- it was my most prolific year by 17 posts (check my math on that, might be off by one). I want to write more varied things this year, and go out of my comfort zone, and do things that scare me, in a good way. For Bryce this probably means more fancy math and writing more technical stuff about photonics and lasers and wafers and those sorts of things. We are going to reclaim some of our wasted time for creative endeavors that are far more satisfying than a zinger facebook post. 

Complain less. A good venting is always lovely, but I don't want to be the person who is always negative, who always can find something to bitch about, who always focuses on the problems and the difficulties more than the opportunities or solutions to a situation. I think I do a pretty decent job of this now, I've been actively working on it over the last year, but I can find myself getting into a negative rut sometimes that just isn't productive. If the complaining transfers into action, it's okay. If the complaining gets something off my chest that's been eating at me and then GOES AWAY, it's okay. If it's just bitching for bitching's sakes, it has no a very limited place in my life. I am going to be more positive this year, and try to stop and breathe when I feel that I am in complainy mode and try to find something to be grateful for, some little gem in the pile of shit, something to look forward to once unpleasantness is over.

Be Present in the Present. This one's hard, so hard. I think we did a better job last year living our life as is, and trying to the best of our ability to not always bemoan our lack of baby. To find the humor in our situation and do as much as we can to enjoy what we have now, for hopefully it will change but if it doesn't I don't want to look back on all our years of waiting and think we wasted time we could have enjoyed together. We can be excited for adoption and content with where we are. It's hard because we aren't fully free to just live, because we aren't resolved -- we still need the giant chunk of adoption money and the planned finances for my maternity leave and take into consideration plane ticket trips with possible adoption movement (even when there hasn't been much lately, it tends to happen when we try to make plans even though logically I know that's not tied WHATSOEVER), and know that our homestudy is tied to our house and updates for the sake of moving are expensive. But outside of those limitations, we can do things to enjoy our life as a twosome. It will only make our life more enjoyable while we wait and won't take away from the future life we hope for. We could get hit by a bus tomorrow, it's time that's not promised. And while grief is grief and ties you to the past, I am going to try real hard not to relive awful moments from my history and let them ruin my present. Those moments deserve some thought as I could learn from them, or feel the feels if I'm triggered and then let it go, but I am going to try to set the past and the future aside as much as is reasonable and live the crap out of the present, so I don't miss it.

De-Clutter. This one is hard for me, because I like to hang on to things out of possible future use, or obligation, or pure guilt. Bryce is much better at letting physical things go. I am weighed down by my things. Last year I got Bryce the Kondo method book, and parts of it were great but I DO NOT AGREE WITH HER WHEN IT COMES TO BOOKS. At all. Especially the part where she says if you've bought a book and you don't read it within a couple months, you're never going to read it. That's hooey. I love my stack of "To-Read" books that serve as a little bookshop on my shelves. And I do eventually get to them. All of them. However, looking at other items -- tchotchkes, clothing, dishes... I really ought to do the whole "does this spark joy" thing and think, Am I keeping this because I love it and/or it is useful, or is it just collecting dust and taking up valuable space in our 1600 square foot cape with odd layouts and useless closets? A difficult thing to do but an important one. It will lessen Bryce's stress as he would love for us to live in one of those all-white Scandinavian houses that have clear surfaces where there are surfaces at all. It will make our house more livable until we have the freedom to move. It will make it seem like we have more space than we actually do. And it will lighten our load, physically and mentally. I just have to get over the instant anxiety I feel for some reason whenever Bryce suggests that we attack an area of the basement or the back room. There's a middle ground between Norwegian Nothing and drawers full of tissue paper from years ago or 50 mugs or stacks of coupons I'm never actually going to use before they expire. I am way better at pile management than I used to be, but we have a lot of stuff that we don't need to hang on to. (Actually, I like my drawer of tissue paper and gift bags, it kills me to buy new when so much can be saved.)

Get Up Earlier.  This one's more for me, as Bryce is NOT a morning person (even though I think he would benefit from getting up even just 30 minutes earlier than he does, he says pass). I'm not really, either, but I found when I became a teacher that I became functional in the morning where I wasn't before. I once changed my schedule at a corporation to 9-6 because I literally COULD NOT get there by 8 on a regular basis, and I made a great argument that I could provide additional queue coverage on the phones for an hour before the limited 11-8 shift ended the day, so they let me. But now I am supposed to be at school by 7:30, and I have had years where meetings at 7:15 are a regular occurrence (thank goodness this year I've only had a handful of 7:20 ones). It is HARD, and I am a snooze-hitter. Often I wake up on my own at 6 or a little before and then go back to sleep, which is a mistake. So now I am trying to hit snooze only once, if at all. I am going to reclaim my mornings for unharried moments, showering without wondering if I'll have time to feed the cats AND get a breakfast together that I can eat in the car (often a sad little blueberry oatmeal bar, on fancy days a gluten free everything bagel with whipped cream cheese). I've done it a couple of times (all two days this week so far, wahoo) and it is lovely. So it's dark. A relaxed morning makes me far less cranky during the day. I'm not crazy, I don't think I could get up early enough to work out in the morning, at least not yet, but a girl can dream. In the meantime, I just want to attempt to eat that bagel at the table instead of while driving (which inevitably results in getting cream cheese on my coat and/or my steering wheel). It's a change that just might shift the tone for the whole day from hurry-up/catch-up to relaxed-ly easing into what usually ends up being a hectic day of middle school chaos, anyway.

Pretty good list, no? There's more, but these are the top ones. Well, reinstate the chore chart for housecleaning equity. That's a good one too. For me. Ha. Most of these things are about reclaiming time, and readjusting attitudes. All good things to intend for a new year that will likely challenge all of those things. Deep breath. We can do this! 

Monday, January 2, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: Promises in the Mail

I love when all the holiday catalogs that clog up our mailbox are replaced by these:

There is nothing like being in the dreary gray and white freeziness of January and receiving the promise of spring and new plants in those glossy pages. I know it's only been winter for a couple of weeks, but poring over these plant catalogs and dreaming of new beds and arrangements will get me through all the cold dreary winter to come. Maybe I won't plant vegetable seeds, maybe I'll make my cut flower garden I talked about last year and never did. The possibilities are endless (well, budget permitting).

It's a waiting I know has an end to it, a period of anticipation that will end in green shoots and colorful blossoms and butterflies. Hope in the mailbox.

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