We just got back from our (incredibly cold) vacation in Vermont where we visited with family and had a little respite in our favorite little inn in Grafton. It was a bit too cold for all the outdoor activities (without windchill we woke up to -8 degrees Fahrenheit temps...brrrr) but it was lovely to read and play ping pong and have yummy dinners and just relax. Especially since we are fighting yet another holiday cold...
One of the things that we did over the vacation bit of the trip was to write down our accomplishments for 2017, and then all the shitty things that happened. Although there were some really lovely things this year, the balance leaned clearly towards the shit side.
We'll start with the crap side.
I'm more than happy to wave goodbye to 2017 because it held an incredible amount of pain. This was the year I lost my uncle to lung cancer and my grandfather to Alzheimer's. This was the year I developed a lovely case of scleritis (a fun autoimmune attack on my left eye), that was triggered by stress and then started a domino effect that had begun years earlier and just cumulated until a long, high dose regimen of prednisone led to a fairly spectacular mental breakdown following a spike in blood pressure and side effects that mimicked a cardiac event and landed me in the ER. It was, frankly, the year of Emergency Room/Urgent Care. It was the year where we decided that after 8 years of striving fruitlessly, if my health was going to decline then we'd go with the life we have and let go of the one we wanted but for some inexplicable reason was always just out of reach. It was the year we ended our journey to parenthood with a call to the agency saying that we were done. It was the year that we spent Memorial Day weekend packing up our nursery to donate to someone who actually could use it for a real live baby. It was the year none of our embryos survived to help the couple we donated them to/placed them with conceive, and ended our parenting journey even by proxy -- we tried so hard through all these different avenues and even gave away our embryos to give them a chance we couldn't give them...only to be left with nothing, and to have shared our nothing with another grieving couple.
It was quite possibly the most difficult year I can remember. (Also, the formatting on this post is a bit odd because I'm using my work computer...a parting gift of 2017 is that my laptop fried itself right before we left. Grrr.)
Posts that I think capture the incredible awfulness of this period:
Good Riddance, March
When Everything Falls Apart: or So THIS Is What It Looks Like to Lose It
The Finality of Making the Call
Packing Up the Nursery
So It Goes
However, there were good things, too. Really good things.
Number one is that we ended limbo. It's weird, we lived in this in between space for so long and when it finally ended, although not the way we'd hoped, the relief was palpable. An almost physical weight was lifted, and it was noticed by people all around us. I am so sad about the loss of our embryos, for us and the other couple, but I am so very happy that it happened in 2017. That 2018 can be a completely fresh start in our life, that there is no lingering possibility of some kind of fertility-related trauma. Because that's what all of that was and is -- a boatload of trauma. Having an end to the limbo has been a tremendous gift.
Oddly, once we reframed our life and our home to be just for us and not preparing for a phantom child, the space took on a life of its own and we bought grownup furniture that matched and a house that seemed too small and cramped and possibly cursed suddenly felt cozy and full of character and new life. I got a beautiful office where the nursery once was. We have new living room furniture and dining room furniture and it's such a small thing in the grand scheme of things, but it meant that we truly were out of limbo -- there wasn't anymore "what if" or feeling like any expenditure would be silly because what if we needed that for adoption or we moved and the furniture wasn't right anymore or whatever else.
We took our honeymoon, a real long vacation involving flying and seeing things that neither of us had before.
I got my beautiful tattoo, to encapsulate my transformation and the strength and power I have gained from having so much pain and loss.
I achieved my National Board certification, which is particularly sweet for me because I did the lion's share of the writing during a time where I felt I was barely surviving, and it was not ideal at all -- I was supposed to get a lot of writing done over April Break but I was busy scooping up all my goo and putting myself back into humanlike substance form, so I did most of it in May, actually during Mother's Day weekend. There was a shitload of adversity happening all around those pages, and so to have passed with good standing? It makes me feel worthy of my phoenix tattoo.
Bryce continued working through the courses that he needs to complete in order to earn his PhD, and 2018 will see him battling his Qualification Exam, hopefully becoming a bona fide PhD candidate. I have utter faith in his abilities here -- he is always worried about the quality of his work or doing poorly, and he always kills it. He is so smart and so dedicated and I can't wait to see where all this brings us as a family.
Some posts that remind me that there was good this year, too:
...Because I Don't Have Kids
Easter Fun Without Kids
Oh, Okay...So NOW It's Final
Reclaiming the Butterflies
Enter the Phoenix
The Christmas Tree Story
It's a lot of good. Our life took a definite turn, a swerve of dizzying proportions, over this past year. But now it leads down a road we might not have gotten to see otherwise, a road with beauty and joy and fulfillment all its own. For as much as 2017 took away, it also gave us so much.
I look forward to 2018, and all the possibilities that lie ahead of us, now that I hope most of our darkest days lie behind us in the shitstorm that was 2017.