Monday, February 29, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: Clearing My To Do List

The last two weeks have been incredibly stressful. I have spent long hours at school, and at least 30 hours of my "February Break" were spent feverishly writing IEPs (Individualized Education Plans) for both my resource room caseload and the ELA portions for my self-contained classes (those are nice because I'm not the case manager, so I "just" have to write the Reading and Writing narratives, needs, and goals, and make sure the classroom mods and test accommodations match my students' needs, not the whole shebang).

But, it's all DONE.

Friday I was in the copier room until 6:00 pm, trying desperately to copy all my packets for my meetings two weeks from tomorrow, fighting paper jams and overheating and mystery staples that were apparently invisible. I swore and yelled "I HATE YOU" at the inanimate object spewing out my treasured paperwork. I found new typos and had to print out new copies of pieces, but when I left, late for our dinner with a dear friend at our Friday night Mexican outing, I could breathe a sigh of relief.

I mailed those packets out to parents this morning. Buh-bye.

And then, I had my APPR (annual performance review, not sure what the extra P is for, actually) meeting this morning as well, which meant last week I wrote up all my various and sundry accomplishments and ways that I connect with my students and their families, and put my Outsiders unit that I totally revamped this year together along with a binder of "artifacts" that prove I'm a kickass teacher. I met with my assistant principal for 45 minutes to talk about everything and take him through my stuff. It seemed to go well, and I was really proud of all the hard work that's gone into this year so far. Having THAT done and off the list was also amazing.

I feel like having these two major pieces done is such a relief, not just because it's a boatload of school work that is now behind me, but because now I don't have to worry about NOT being done with these things before we are matched. Now I don't have the pressure of unfinished paperwork over my head in case we get another call soon. I could leave anytime now and feel perfectly fine about it.

(Do you hear that, Mystery Baby? We are really, really, REALLY ready now...anytime. ANYTIME.)

It is lovely. I am freaking exhausted (and not just because I stayed up to watch the entire O.scars last night) but it is so nice to not have that incredibly overwhelmed feeling of I HAVE SO MUCH PAPERWORK TO DO FOR ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING anymore...because I did it all (minus my National Board written component that I'm almost done with, but that's not due until May...).


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

Saturday, February 27, 2016

New Decade, Fresh Slate

When I was in my twenties, I had a very important list of all the things I wanted to have in place by the time I was 30:

have a solid career
get married
buy a house
have two babies

I focused so much on those arbitrary timeline milestones that I didn't pay so much attention to who I was planning to do all those things with. I thought I was notching off all my To-Dos, but I forgot the most important thing was to share my life with someone who respected me, supported me, and truly loved and cherished me above all others. I got married, but when people cry when you tell them you're engaged, and when you move ahead of time to Western NY and your neighbor downstate thinks you left-left, I'm not sure what a great accomplishment that is. We bought a house, but it never really felt like home...probably in large part because of who I shared it with. I struggled with career--I loved working at a certain big red dog publishing company, but moved to Western NY and had to cobble together something other than children's publishing, which resulted in an interesting string of jobs (curriculum coordinator, laid off! freelance writer, not enough dough and no benefits! yellow pages advertising cog!), but hadn't yet found My Thing. Until I decided while deadening my brain at the yellow pages that I was going to get my Master's in Education, got fired right before I started (a blessing, truly) and then worked as a human resources specialist at an HR services powerhouse while I accomplished that. Incidentally, I had NO support for that from the one who was supposed to be my beloved...he left the already-played message on the answering machine that I'd been accepted for two days without telling me, and informed me that he wasn't sure if we could afford which I replied that thanks to my saving of all my freelance money I had enough for my first year IN CASH. Ha HA. (Yet another thing to remind me that I'd chosen poorly in the marriage area.) And the babies? No babies. I chose to go back to school because my husband at the time told me he wasn't quite sure he actually did want to have babies, and he "wasn't ready." (Probably because of all the cheating, that takes up a lot of time.) And so with no plans to try for a baby in the works, a significant setback to my plan since I was 28 at the time, I decided to go back to school, to choose just one thing to push to the future. Given everything that came to pass, I am so glad I left that marriage with a Master's degree and not a baby. 

I found myself turning thirty with everything on my list gone to shit: 

Solid Career:  I was student teaching, so on my way to a career but paying to work full-time-plus, but with no guarantee that I'd land a coveted teaching job.
Marriage: I was getting divorced (a good thing in SO many ways, but to get divorced and turn thirty at the same time is cruel timing for sure).
House: No house anymore, I was living in an apartment above my parents' garage (in a house that they had just bought to retire to in a year and use as a summer house in the meantime, which was some damn lucky timing for me, since otherwise I have no idea what I would have done.)
Two Babies: No babies. And no boyfriend or career or house or prospect for having babies anytime soon. 


To make matters worse, I was in a financial hole. Throughout my twenties, I had never carried a balance on my credit cards. Now, all of my personal savings had gone into tuition for the first year of my Master's degree, and all joint savings was in my soon-to-be ex-husband's accounts to which I had no access. I still had to pay for my second year of Master's, and because my divorce wasn't final they still considered his income in the mix for loans, and so it was paltry... So I took some loan and paid for the rest (which was a lot) on my credit card. I figured it was a temporary issue and an investment in my future, and I could pay it off when I got a teaching job. 

And then I made all my money through waitressing on weekends at a catering house and subbing...which put me at poverty level until I got my first salaried job. 

I did receive a settlement for my divorce, and that helped, but the first check was entirely absorbed by paying my legal fees. I had THE WORST attorney who charged me 15 minutes of his hourly fee for every voicemail, and never called me back so I had to keep calling, and then he was so incompetent with filing that I GOT SERVED WITH DIVORCE PAPERS and so am the defendant in that whole mess. ME, the one who was cheated on for 3.5 years out of 5 and treated like dirt. It doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things, but it still makes me mad. The rest of the settlement went towards paying off my car (I was the primary driver but it wasn't in my name, so to keep it I had to pay it off), paying for living expenses while making very little money subbing and paying COBRA to keep my health insurance current... a snafu where I thought I had dental insurance for a long-term sub position but I didn't, and so a wisdom tooth extraction with anesthesia ended up being $1000 out of pocket...not realizing that the same long-term position provided health insurance until June, but then I wasn't covered July and August, and so had to pay two months of COBRA at once in August (another $1600). It didn't get very far. 

And all of a sudden I found myself in a debt pit. I couldn't make enough money to keep up with even my minimal expenses, and that credit card debt just crept up and up and up even though I made payments each month. Stupid interest. 

In hardly any time at all I owed more than $20,000. Which is a disgusting number, but the vast majority of it was my tuition expenses...which in the end didn't matter because $20,000 is $20,000 is $20,000. 

It is amazingly difficult to pay down credit card debt when it reaches that level. You can make a large payment but it will cover largely interest, and so your balance creeps down as slowly as the speed with which it shot up. It was beyond frustrating. 

I spent my thirties paying that down. I made larger payments when I could, I did balance transfers to 0% cards in amounts that I could pay off within the term and then closed the new account. Somehow I managed to maintain excellent credit in the midst of all this (probably because I was consistently paying each month and my balance amount WAS shrinking, so more of my available credit line was freed up). I negotiated the lowest interest rate they could give me (which at the time was 10%). And I just kept chip-chip-chipping away at it. 

I met Bryce shortly after my 30th birthday, and so he has witnessed this whole effort. Even after we got married, and he could have easily paid it off for me (It took forever to get to $10,000, and then I felt like I was making traction), but I WANTED TO DO IT MYSELF. I had gotten myself into this mess, and I wanted to be the one to ultimately zero it out. Even though everything is "our" money, until this debt is gone, I saw it as an albatross I didn't want Bryce to ever have to think about. It was my heavy dead bird to bear.

And so as we kept planning for maternity leave (and planning and planning and planning without ever actually having any leave), I kept trying to get that balance down and down and down, because I didn't want Bryce ever paying on my debt. I wanted it gone. I wanted to pay him back if he ever had to take over at any given point because I hadn't gotten rid of it before we were successful. 

Part of this was because I saw it as the mistakes of my twenties haunting my thirties. I associated that debt with the mess that was my divorce, and my switch in career at the same time that proved beyond expensive, and just everything about the disaster of the decade before I met Bryce. It was the last piece of my divorce that lingered. And I wanted to be the one to snuff it out. And I wanted it gone before my next decade. I wanted to start my forties debt-free, and lighter. 

I put between $500 and $800 per month into that stupid card. My tax returns always went part into the debt and part towards my summer saving. I worked HARD to get it gone.

And now, today, IT IS PAID OFF. My balance is ZERO. 


Although I do well for myself, I don't make a ton of money as a special education teacher, and it took a significant portion of my take-home pay to do this -- it took only using my bank card unless for emergencies and making a lot of tough choices. I have so much pride that I did it myself, that while I could have been done years ago and not paid as much interest if I'd just let Bryce do it, I stubbornly did it on my own. 


Now I am going into my forties in just over two months, and I only have a tiny amount of student loan left, and that is ALL THE DEBT I HAVE (minus mortgage). Pretty darn spiffy. 

As I march towards that new decade, my list of things I wanted at thirty that were pretty much all foobar'd at that point is now: 

Solid Career: I am a tenured special education teacher in a great district, and I LOVE my job.
Marriage: I have been married to someone who truly makes my life amazing for six and a half years -- we have mutual respect, support for each other's pursuits, love, laughter, and a strength of friendship and passion that I didn't ever think I would ever deserve, much less have. 
House: We have a house that is truly a home, even if it is squeezed for space we don't actually need more space at the moment. I love coming home. I love all the work we've done to it, together. It's a happy, cozy place. 
Two Babies: Well, you can't have everything. In all likelihood we will have one amazing baby when all is said and done... and there is absolutely no guarantee that this will come to pass before I turn forty. That's a lot of pressure, anyway. I guess it's something to leave to the next decade, the one where we will be parenting and adjusting the way we've lived our life without children for so long... 

Not too shabby. I am proud of my accomplishments, I feel an amazing lightness knowing that I will go on maternity leave without leaving my debt to someone else to pay, and more than that...I JUST GAVE MYSELF QUITE A RAISE! At least until I am out on leave and then return to pay for daycare... ha ha ha. 

Sometimes life doesn't turn out the way you imagined, and sometimes those arbitrary set points can do more harm than good. I have learned to be more flexible, and I think that will come in mighty handy when I face an entirely new decade with a fresh financial slate just in time to face the challenges and joys of new parenthood. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

What It Feels Like To NOT Be Chosen

I remember peeing on a stick, the few ill-fated times that I did it when I didn't already know I was pregnant. I remember how the two minutes felt like an eternity, and when the NOT PREGNANT or single line materialized, I felt crushed.

Waiting for a decision update on a profile opportunity was kind of like that, only the stick took a week and a day to give up one line or two (one), to take so long to develop and then deliver highly disappointing results in a matter of seconds.

We received a profile opportunity call last Monday, while I was on February Break (I was wearing pants this time). It sounded great. There wasn't a ton of information, but there was enough for us to say Absolutely, Yes, Put us in the mix. 

Then it turned out to be a blind profile, although not the kind where once you hear all the details they go, SURPRISE! You've been CHOSEN! It was more like, "She's seen your book already, she's a fan, she's choosing between you and a couple other couples at this point." She had requested a bunch of books upon calling the agency, and ours was one of the few she really, really liked.

"You can be cautiously optimistic," our social worker told us.

This was super exciting, because even though a choice is a choice is a choice, it SEEMED like a choice between just a few books was more promising. And she really liked our book, which seemed even more promising.

She was due March 15th, which is rather soon. And the date of my special education annual review meetings to go over student's progress this year and their plans for next year, which caused me some stress but also a little subversive joy that I could miss all that hubbub for something much more exciting.

Unfortunately for me, even though I absolutely 100% knew that there was a chance this could NOT be our situation, I started dreaming. I started spinning out story after story about what might be going through the expectant mother's mind, about the many possibilities for a good call, about what it would feel like to become a mother in a month or less. (I also spun out all the many conjectures I had for how the call could go wrong, but that wasn't as fun.)

To put it plainly, I got super excited and hopeful. I passed "cautiously optimistic" and kept the possibility that this might not be us, that we might not be chosen in my back pocket, tucked in a drawer out of sight and only pulled it out every once in a while to temper my exuberance in feeling that maybe, just maybe, this might be our chance.

I spent quality time in the nursery. I organized the dresser that still held only instruction manuals and a box of wipes (a box I fear will be dried out by the time anything comes to pass for real, even though it's hermetically sealed), refolded all the onesies and put them in by months -- 0-3, 6, and 9-12. I put all the swaddlers and sleepsacks in their own drawer. I put most of the receiving blankets in a bottom drawer (so many receiving blankets for someone we have yet to receive...). I organized all our books and cleared out bathtime things and put them in a dedicated spot in the bathroom.

It felt good. It felt nest-y. In the back of my mind, I thought, "Maybe not, maybe not, maybe not..." but in the front I was giddily chortling, "But maybe so, maybe so, maybe so!"

We ordered our pack 'n play using baby shower gift cards. We figured out our finances for my leave, if that was going to come to pass.

I can't say that we hoped too much or that we planned too much, because had this been our match, we'd be ahead of the game with such a short time before the due date. It felt good to do things that we will need to do ANYWAY, REGARDLESS of outcome.

But I feel like I got carried away with visualizing this tiny mystery baby materializing in our home, with imagining the call to my principal that I was going to need a leave replacement sooner than later, imagining calls to family and friends and actually buying that stroller.

Yesterday marked a week of waiting, and I was nervous and anxious beyond the last profile opportunity (probably because that one had a due date of late May, and so I felt like a longer wait was probably going to be in the cards...while this one seemed a bit more urgent, what with the blind profiling and all). I steeled up my courage and willed myself to not sound insane, rambly, or super-desperate, and called our agency for an update. Not a decision update, just a check-in, a "any new information not related to the decision?" kind of a thing to get some reassurance at the least and maybe some new pieces to the puzzle at the most.

No updates, but I was told they were hoping to call within the next couple days.

And then today, at noonish, my phone rang and it was my agency's number. I was eating my lunch and there were students and coworkers present when I excused myself to the stairwell, the most private place I could find.

She chose someone else. She liked us quite a bit, but she had a feeling of connection with the other couple. And so we were runners-up, smaller crown but no baby.

At first I was okay, disappointed for sure, but I was feeling like, "Okay. This sucks, but like the first one, I can take it."

I had to immediately tell the coworkers I was eating with that it was a no, and their fallen faces reflected the tiny piece of me I was tamping deep down, and the shine in their eyes was like adding one of those tiny sponge animal capsules to water and my disappointment and even grief at a lost possibility grew and grew inside my chest until I threatened to burst. I tried so hard to compartmentalize, but the tears started welling and I put a bite of pasta with butternut squash sauce in my mouth but mini-sobbed a bit and aspirated and then blamed it on forgetting to swallow instead of tamping down sadness. I made a joke about Butternut Squash Pneumonia, had tears running down my face from choking (mostly) and excused myself to go call Bryce.

And this is where I fell apart and could not compartmentalize anymore. He was so disappointed. He was almost angry, sort of an "ARGH, I totally thought we had this one! I let myself get so hopeful! Argh!" We both did. So much hope, and then the all-too-familiar feeling of the dashing.

Like I said before, I suck at keeping my own secrets. I told a whole bunch of people at school yesterday, but with a heavy caveat that THIS MIGHT NOT COME TO PASS, WE ARE JUST BEING CONSIDERED, because the more days that passed without a decision the less confident I became, but I still allowed myself hope. This meant I had to tell people as I came into contact with them that we weren't chosen. Again. And so my eyes were a bit swollen by my next teaching period and I hoped that blue-grey eyeliner and mascara weren't shadowing my eyes in a sad sort of way, and that I wouldn't overcompensate too much and look like an insane person who is overly chipper in hopes no one would notice the overwhelming sad sponge animal taking up all available space in the chest cavity. I think I did okay, although at one point I did entertain the thought of finding my principal and asking to leave, to go home and crawl into bed and hide away.

How did it feel to be passed over, even though we were SO CLOSE? To not be chosen for the second time in a row, although this time after feeling so positively about our chances? Not so great. I have this intense fear that we will always come in close, but no cigar...that we won't ever be the couple an expectant mother feels "connected to." Like househunting, when you have THE house that just speaks to you and you can't put a finger on what it is that makes it so special, versus a house that has all your requirements but is just missing that...Thing. God I hope we're not missing that Thing, whatever it is. I hope it's just that we haven't been introduced to the woman who is looking for just our kind of Thing.

It is extraordinarily encouraging that we have received two profile opportunities in five weeks. That after months and months of radio silence, it seems the cork has popped, the seal has been broken. Hopefully we get another call soon, and maybe the third time will be the charm.

There are so many positives to this situation:
- We are being profiled, the calls ARE coming in
- People actually like our book and it is getting action and good feedback (although no slam dunk yet)
- We are getting experience with profile calls and the godawful wait
- One of these days we will get THE call, and getting calls in the first place puts us closer to that day

Our social worker said she was looking forward to calling us again soon (although she might say that to every dejected waiting adoptive family), and said there was a lot to be encouraged about despite not being chosen.

Unfortunately, for now, I kind of don't want to focus on the silver linings. I want to stuff my face with Indian food for dinner and the orange-vanilla salt water taffy my mom brought us from Florida and wallow wallow wallow in my sorrow. Even though you can't lose something that wasn't yours to begin with, it feels like such a loss -- of a dream, of a situation I could fully envision, of a strength of hope I haven't felt in years.

We'll bounce back. I won't learn my lesson and cage up my feelings next time, I'll probably be just as exuberant if it looks just as promising. The sweetness of the hope and the preparation planning activities was worth the pain we feel now of not coming in first, not being the chosen ones. Someday we'll have the Thing, we'll have the connection, and we'll have whatever the mother of our baby envisions. We'll be the dream house for someone else, sometime in the future.

Just not today.

Monday, February 22, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: That's Not What I Was Looking For, Thanks

Arrrrgggggghhhhh. That somewhat sums up my feelings when, in a moment of advance planning and financial wizardry, we tried to calculate up what our costs would be while I'm out on maternity leave whenever that comes to pass.

One of those costs is formula, since while I know you can induce lactation, for me it is just not a good idea (physically, emotionally, emotionally, emotionally, physically, emotionally)...I'm done expending energy into wrangling my body into doing things it clearly doesn't want to do. So formula is how we'll be feeding Mystery Baby.

Silly me, I searched "How much does formula cost per month?" and was met with:

- "So, if we do a straight multiplication here, we find that over the first year of life, average formula to feed an average baby costs $1,733.75, while the cost of breastmilk is $0."
Ah. Thank you. The numbers seem a bit off, and I wasn't really looking to compare to breastmilk, since for me, NOT ZERO. (And for anyone, since don't you have to eat more to keep up with the calorie burning? Indirect cost, but still.)

- "Financial costs of NOT Breastfeeding" A lovely article sponsored by a breastfeeding organization that then proceeded to tell me how HARMFUL formula is and how much I will be harming my baby's health and immune system and emotional well-being by formula-feeding. NOT what I was looking for.

- "I would have tried harder to breastfeed if I had known just how expensive formula was going to be"
Wow. Just wow. Like there's not enough guilt foisted upon those not breastfeeding, now it's about trying harder. For some people (not even including myself), trying harder does not result in better results, just more frustration and guilt and horrible feelings.

- "Breastfeeding Basics: How much does baby formula cost families?"

Nope, see no bias here at all. None.

I did find one post that was phenomenal and pointed out fallacies in the way that the cost of formula is calculated by those who have a definitive breastfeeding agenda:

- How much does it cost to feed a baby formula?
This one was phenomenal because it pointed out that very few babies eat formula (or breastmilk) exclusively throughout the first year. For 4-6 months, yes, but then it's balanced out by solids or cereal, some of which (most of which) you can make yourself for very little money. Eeeenteresting.

Don't get me wrong -- I would have loved to have breastfed my baby if my body wasn't such a total traitorous saboteur. I think those who do breastfeed are fantastic and if you can continue on and it isn't an issue, good for you. But my goodness, didn't the bias just seep out of the search engine when all I was looking for were some basic statistics for the way I choose to feed my baby, if by "choose" I mean "because I'm not willing to go on another fucking protocol and force my body into producing a meager supply and buy donor milk of dubious origin and cry and cry because I can't feed my baby adequately and yet again my body has failed me and our family, cry cry cry then sink into that deep dark hole again but this time I have a tiny human to care for." Or I could formula feed, bond with my baby without that added anxiety (because I'm sure I'll have anxieties aplenty just transitioning to new motherhood so abruptly), and quit forcing my body to comply with things it can't do effectively, thus enjoying my bonding time with my baby better.

Just thought the bias was interesting, when all I wanted was to price out average formula costs per month. I so look forward to all the judginess I will face as a formula-feeding mom, when I am finally given the opportunity to be out there with my bottle and my fake breast milk that is apparently going to ruin my baby forever. Good times, good times.

Friday, February 19, 2016

All The Ways To Wait

I've been thinking on what it feels like, the waiting period between getting that amazing call that you could be considered for a profile opportunity and the call that gives you an update -- yes or no? Back to the wait or in an entirely different wait?

I remember the dreaded two-week-wait, and there are definitely some similarities. But there are significant differences, too.

In both, I am waiting for a phone call that will feasibly either change our life or leave us yet again with nothing.

In both, I stare at my phone, willing it to ring, and when it does my heart jumps into my throat along with a hint of vomit and I hope it's a good call.

In both, the person on the other line tries to sound neutral until the bomb is dropped.

I have a lot of experience with not-good calls. I only had one glorious moment when my RE himself called on a Saturday morning and the joy was just palpable through the phone, "Jessica, you know there's only ONE REASON why I would be calling you on a Saturday..." and my heart jumped into my throat in an entirely different way as he said the words we'd been hoping to hear for three long years -- "You're PREGNANT!" Unfortunately, that amazing call was followed up two weeks later with the devastating call that my levels had dropped from 2,000 something (admittedly low for where I was in the pregnancy) to 200-something. Such a big drop that they ran it twice, sure that a lab tech had forgotten a zero or two somewhere.

And then every call after that for two and a half long years was a negative, or a cancellation, or other various and sundry bad news.

So I can only hope that one day I will get a good-news call.

The waiting for an adoption call once you are being profiled is also incredibly different than that two-week-wait Pregnant/Not Pregnant/Uncertain call.

For one, there's no guarantee of a timeframe. With infertility, I knew EXACTLY when that call was coming, just not what time of day. It was torture from about 11:30 until as late as 4. With this kind of waiting, you have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA when that call could could be a day later, it could be two weeks later, and it is 100% up to someone making the most difficult decision of her life.

Because the other difference is there's no way to guess. There's no cheating and peeing on a stick early justincase. There's no feeling your boobs for swelling and hoping it's a growing nugget and not just the progesterone-in-oil. There's no Toilet Paper Watch for implantation bleeding, which I had both times I was pregnant. There's no figuring out at what point in hatch-and-attaching HCG levels would be high enough to risk peeing on a stick with an HCG threshold of 25, because your clinic does two weeks even though it was a blast that was transferred and you can TOTALLY test early and get a result. To be fair, none of these things are guarantees. You can have all the symptoms and come up negative. And vice-versa. It's actually a blessing to have my body out of the mix, to have nothing but the silence of the phone to look to for answers.

At the same time, your imagination can run rampant. You can come up with all sorts of scenarios as to why an update is taking longer than expected, why the phone isn't ringing. You can have a nightmare (utterly illogical) thought that the agency forgot about you and the decision was made and you didn't make it and they forgot to call you. You can think that maybe she's changed her mind about placing her child at all, and they don't know how to tell you (of course they'd know how to tell you, that's WHAT THEY DO). You can think maybe she liked your book, and then she looked closer and noticed a wrinkle here or a gray hair there and decided you're too old to raise her baby. Or that your pictures were weird, or your Dear Birth Mother Letter was somehow offensive, although you've been assured that your book in of itself would not be the reason why you'd be knocked out of the running.

You can go the other way, too, thinking that there's some big family pow-wow and it's taking longer because you were loved so much that before the call is made the expectant mother wants to share all around. Or you can see every day that goes by as a day that this momentous decision is being weighed very carefully, as it should be, and that if you are chosen then you will know for sure that you are CHOSEN.

But again, like feeling your boobs and staring at toilet paper and analyzing twingey feelings in your uterus, you have NO REAL INFORMATION until that call actually comes. Until the bloodwork is definitive. Until the update is in and the decision has been made.

If you're not chosen, well then you try to figure out why not (and blatantly ask, as I did with our first profile call, and maybe get an answer -- ours wasn't why we weren't chosen but why someone else was, resemblance in extended family makeup). And you go back to waiting an indeterminate amount of time for another chance to wait for real, for the phone to ring and present you with another profile opportunity, and you hope it doesn't take another five months to receive one. It feels like square one, sort of, but not really. Because now you know what to expect when a call comes in, and you know that you CAN be called. Going back to the amorphous wait, thought, is hard.

If you are fortunate enough to be chosen, you have an entirely different kind of wait ahead of you. A tenuous period of "is this real?" until that baby is born and surrenders are signed and you can breathe your first sigh of relief until any additional revocation period is over and then the glorious day of finalization comes. But in that time, you are expecting a real, non-theoretical baby, and you can plan and get excited but with the tiniest voice in the back of your head going, "I hope this is for real." Because you could wait and be excited and even have a due date of sorts, and then in those 72 hours surrounding birth changes could happen. Or even earlier. You don't know.

In that time you can choose to be cautiously optimistic and run with the optimism, because nothing will change the outcome of that decision until its made, until the ink is on the papers. And the baby is her baby all the way until that moment comes, and then after that the baby is in a very real way our baby, all of us together in this mosaic of biology and biography, as Lori Lavender Luz would put it.

All that waiting. All that uncertainty. All that joy, ever-so-slightly tempered by the fear of risk, from the moment that phone rings. It can make your head spin. But without this waiting and uncertainty and complexity, we won't become parents. We won't have the chance to raise a tiny human to be an amazing person. We won't have the chance to know the woman who brought that tiny human into this world and made the decision that is amazing and heartrending and deserves all the time in the world to make.

So it's okay, we'll wait.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Long Term Match, Last Minute Match

When learning all about profile opportunities and matches and timeframes, I had a secret thought in the back of my head... "I'd far rather have a last-minute placement than a long-term one."

In my mind, a last-minute placement would have been ideal, because it would come out of nowhere and so you'd have very little time to think on it too much. There wouldn't be as much time for deciding to parent after all (as is the right of every birth parent), and if that did happen I wouldn't have as much time to get attached to the idea of a little baby coming home with us. It seemed like the best option for a slightly scarred and armored heart -- fast, not a lot of time for attachment and then grief if it fell through, and a warp speed entry into parenthood without much time to freak out about not knowing what the heck we are doing. (We'll have plenty of time for that when we're doing it.)

I didn't really want a long term match, one where there are months and you can go to appointments and sort of have a due date. One where you get attached to the idea of this baby being YOUR baby and have pictures and something concrete to look forward to. That all sounds nice until you realize that matches can fall through, and maybe you'll go home with this baby and maybe you won't. So, not having as much time to look forward to and get to know a tiny in-utero miracle could protect you, a little.

I spoke with a friend who adopted her son through a last-minute placement. She let me know that there are defined risks with last-minute, risks I hadn't thought of: 

- The birthmother may not have had ample opportunity for counseling, may not have been counseled, or may be more likely to refuse counseling
- You may have less of a chance of an open adoption, in part due to limited counseling
- You may not have all the medical information at the time that you solidify your match/placement, because it may not be released yet, and so there is potential for health concerns you weren't initially prepared for coming to the surface due to discrepancies in reported information versus screened information (not common but has happened)

And some that I did think of: 
- You don't have the chance to plan
- You have to be ready at a moment's notice to get in the car or hop a plane
- Your employer has to be ready at a moment's notice to have your leave replacement or a plan in place
- You have to have things in order so that a leave replacement situation is feasible

It does sound quite stressful.

But, on the other hand, our first profile opportunity was a long-term situation. The expectant mother wasn't due until May 28th, which meant that at the time of our call she was about 18 weeks along. WHICH IS NOT VERY FAR ALONG AT ALL, not really. That would be a very long time of waiting and hoping that this match went through. They wanted the adoptive parents to come to appointments and be involved throughout the pregnancy, which is great. Except it made me so nervous, to be in a situation where I could get so very attached and look forward to the end of May and think it was kinda sorta MY due date, too, only to still face the very real risk of a failed match. I mean, that situation sounded pretty confident -- reasons for placing were logical and well-thought out, there was a lot of research and thought put into what was presented on the call. But still.

After 5 1/2 years of a hellish IVF experience, where so many things went wrong that weren't entirely sensical and it seemed we were characters in a Series of Unfortunate Events, how can I trust that things will work out smoothly with adoption? A long-term match sounds to me like a whole lot of opportunity for hurt.

But, nothing comes without risk. Every possible situation is risky in its own way. There's no one better way than another. Every single situation can result in a failed match, but if I live my life in this space thinking only about the awful possibilities it will keep me from enjoying the moments that can be full of joy. IVF kind of sucked some of my capacity to hope and be Pollyanna-like away. I did not succeed, and no one could tell me a concrete reason why. I tried and tried and tried, and it seemed like everything ended poorly, just in myriad horrible ways, all different.

This is a different process, though, with different opportunities for pain but so many opportunities for joy. I need to focus on the what-could-be, not the what-might-not-be. Some day we will have a baby in our arms and it will have happened in just the right way for us and for our child's birth family, if not the easiest (for anyone). Maybe I do have a little Pollyanna left after all.

I've come to think that there is no ideal circumstance, but maybe a situation where there is about a month, maybe 6 weeks to 3 weeks, before the due date? Something where you have time enough to get your house in order and your ducks in a row, but not long enough to feel like risk-taking over a long period of time. A Goldilocks timeframe, sort of. Now that I've said this it pretty much guarantees it won't pan out that way for us, but a girl can hope.

Hope and dream and try to accept risks without feeling more fear than joy.

Monday, February 15, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: The Gender Reveal

During a profile call you get all kinds of information. During our first profile call, I had 3 1/2 pages of my small purple Vera Bradley notebook filled with everything from health history of expectant mother and expectant father, to reason for placing, to length of prenatal care, to a really detailed extended family history.

And then, in the middle of it all,

"And it's a boy."

Huh? Shouldn't there be more pomp and circumstance than that? It was said so matter-of-factly.

The funny thing is I always wanted to know, I didn't want it to be a surprise. But there's a difference between a moment in an ultrasound, the goo on your belly, seeing either a third leg of sorts or the absence of one and the proclaimed gender in a quasi-intimate moment...and a statement of fact about a baby that may or may not be yours, just one more piece of information to add to your frantically copied down notes.

I guess there's no other way to do it, if the information is known, it's shared. For some people that might make a difference. For me, it was kind of a letdown to hear that information so casually, information that would have had some level of excitement around it. No cakes filled with pink or blue icing or boxes of pink or blue balloons to be released at a party other than a shower, but a private celebration that would have us thinking on one list of names or another.

It sort of made me think of how different this experience is from what we would have had before, and while it is fascinating and will bring us the joys of parenthood, it also takes some of those gradual milestones away from us. The gender to us does not matter one whit--we are thrilled to have a baby of either gender join our household. I just wish that maybe the option of knowing was left to us to decide to know, instead of having gender be one of the many biographical information bits shared over the phone, in a call that may or may not result in parenthood.

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

Saturday, February 13, 2016

On Baby Showers

Baby showers are funny things. They exist pretty much for the sole purpose of receiving and publicly opening presents, a "shower" of gifts and support and love for events like marriage and babies. Both are events that require a building up of inventory to support your new life. Both are events that everyone goes to at some point in their lives, and maybe you have one or both in your honor, but really...most people don't enjoy them. 

The good parts -- the food, the seeing friends and people from different spheres of your life (or the honoree's life). 

The bad parts -- sitting through a very long period of gift opening and possibly not knowing a whole lot of people if it is someone else's shower. Having to explain how you know the bride/mom-to-be. And, if you are single or have gone through a bad breakup or are childless by choice or not or have recently failed a cycle or miscarried or your future as a parent is uncertain, it can be downright painful. 

I myself was given two beautiful baby showers earlier this year. I was showered at school in late September, and showered by my friends and family in October. We had only been waiting for a couple months. It was a "Help us get ready for some mystery baby" shower, not a "help us welcome a baby that we're certain is coming in a particular window of time." It was by design. Because we could get a last-minute call and we could go from being not-parents to parents in a very short period of time with little to no warning, I wanted to be ready, sooner than later. I wanted to not bond with our baby while we took turns frantically shopping for basics in the giant BBB baby superstore. I wanted to have a real nesting period, I wanted to feel just as real as any other expectant mom. I didn't want to miss out on an experience, a milestone, a chance to get together with friends and family and celebrate the impending mystery arrival of a mystery baby. I also didn't want to wait until I was matched, and then run the risk that the match fell through and my shower would forever be tainted by association with a specific child who wasn't going to ultimately be ours. A relatively small risk, but one I feel perfectly fine with avoiding, even if it means that I feel silly later when we've been showered and my house is full of baby gear and a nursery that remains babyless a year later. (We're not there yet by any means, but it is a very real fear, although I maintain that I'm far happier being prepared than waiting and denying ourselves the joy of expecting in all its glory.)

I was lucky to have my wishes be honored. I was feted by my coworkers first, and then by friends and family near and far and from different periods of my life. It was lovely, if awkward. That gift opening part seems to go on forever and I get punchy real quick and borderline inappropriate. 

Some pictures that sort of prove this: 

Happy expectant parents in the middle school library, wondering where we'll put all this glorious baby gear
You can really see here where I've taken my ribbons and put them in my hair. You cannot see the tissue paper littering the floor where I violently threw it in a celebratory manner to make gift-opening unpredictable and more interesting.
Beautiful board books, and the look of "I am nearly done opening presents and am really not comfortable being the center of attention for this long, but I need to keep smiling and being enthusiastic although it hurts my face a little bit" 
Friends and Family Storybook shower in October...  The adorable shower balloon (that looked like a happy jellyfish) that stayed alive for a freakishly long time (October to December before we popped it), the beautiful shower organizers, and me wearing my Mom To Be tiara strangely reminiscent of an entirely different type of celebration before my first wedding involving scantily clothed men. This event was way better. 
The Giving Tree gift area. We were truly blessed by so much generosity. Love the wagon. 

Very Hungry Caterpillar food table. They really went all out with the theme, and it was fabulous.
I wish you could just open presents standing up... but that aside, me hitting Crazy Eyes phase of being uncomfortable at the center of things. There may have been cackling involved. Definitely there was insanely violent tissue-paper-tossing. 
Proof I am capable of not looking insane and that I can be appropriate in facial expression when opening presents. Also, I learned to strategically place the present boxes and bags. I was worried about flashing people in my dress and so was so concentrated on my knees that I forgot to make sure my dress wasn't tucked into my belly. Oh well. 

I thoroughly appreciated the efforts that went into my showers. The people who coordinated, the outpouring of love and support and baby booty involved. It was still a little awkward, and I felt mostly warm and fuzzy and excited to be at this stage while at the same time feeling like it was surreal to have so much baby stuff without a baby to enjoy it, without a bump, without a specific timeline in mind. There were people at my shower who came although it was difficult, even though I had no bump or defined baby on the way, and I appreciated the effort it took to come and was completely understanding when early departures proved important for self-care. Both showers were beautiful celebrations of our parenthood journey and how far we've come and how close we are to having a baby materialize in our home. 

Since my showers, we have set some things up and have left some things to stay in their boxes, to be assembled and put in their place when we're closer to the main event. We have gift certificates and items on our registry waiting to be purchased with said gift certificates. I figure that will be a really great way to spend a weekend when we're feeling discouraged and down or like the adoption is really, really amorphous and far away. Then, BOOM, we will go out and buy our stroller. Or set up something still in its box. We have to leave some stones unturned so that we have something to look forward to while we wait. 

You would think that with my own showers behind me and us in our perpetually positive mindset that we are expecting and the countdown has begun, we just don't know the endpoint...that other peoples' showers would be easy. 

Surprisingly, that is just not true. I feel somewhat like a horrible person admitting it, because I thought being in such a good frame of mind with letting go of pregnancy and being so excited for adoption and all that is to come that I would be a baby shower CHAMP now. Not like before, when I sent gifts or showered 1:1 but could not, would not go to an organized baby shower. Too painful. The only exception was a friend of mine who had twins via IVF. I could go to hers, because she was a survivor. And she understood when I said I might have to escape to the bathroom to cry. Which I did. And because she had been there, she knew not to take it as me not being 100% happy for her, but rather that I wanted to celebrate her although it was desperately, painfully sad for me to be left behind. 

But now I should be able to go to baby showers no problem, because I am also an expectant mother in my own way, right? 


I went to the first shower last month, for a friend who was matched through private adoption with an expectant mother through connections with a mutual friend. It was an adoption shower, which made it seem like it would be amazing -- except this wasn't a Mystery Baby shower, it was a Definite Baby Due in Two Weeks shower. There was a significant level of uncertainty gone. But, I was still okay, even though I didn't really know many people at all. I could say I knew my friend through adoption, but then was surprised when I was asked how old my baby was. "Oh, I don't have one yet." That was my first moment of prickling sadness. The second came when I was introduced as a friend through the journey but who was still in the trenches, waiting. (Which I felt in a way made me sound unsuccessful and again left behind, even though that's not at all what was meant. I felt very much Sad Sack Case again, since the other person we knew through adoption had brought her son home last year.) Then the kicker came. It was meant well, as an encouragement, but I was very much given a persuasive speech about how private adoption was so much better, so much faster, it's all about the connections, the more people you can connect with, I just want you to be in this place, yada yada yada. To me, it smacked of someone in fertility yoga class announcing a pregnancy and then proceeding to tell everyone how to do it, that they have the right formula of acupuncture and herbs, or prayers and meditations, or positivity and rituals to be successful. It drives me crazy, this feeling of "I was successful, and I have the secrets!" I get it -- you are euphoric and want others to feel this amazing feeling of being pregnant/being matched, but YOU DON'T HAVE EVERYONE'S ANSWERS. Not even remotely. You have YOUR answers. I kept repeating, "We are all going to do this in our own way" and that I actually was very happy with the agency and felt that the support offered to birth parents and adoptive parents and adoptees alike was invaluable, but after a while I felt like there was an unspoken commentary that I just wasn't trying hard enough. That if I would consider private I would get matched faster. (Again, all with the best of intentions in mind, but so upsetting.) Particularly upsetting because the mom-to-be's connection was a mutual friend, and it was ONE connection that resulted in this beautiful situation coming to a head. Not a ton of advertising, not putting herself out there to receive possible harassing calls from trolls pretending to be expectant mothers or having to sift through serious/not serious. It was a Right Place/Right Time situation that came to a head out of a beautiful connection that was decidedly not random, and not due to a ton of effort placed in private advertising. 

I left that shower a bit early and spent the rest of the day in a funk. I was insanely happy for my friend to be in this position, as she had quite the road through infertility to get to adoption and this amazing opportunity with the expectant mother, and I enjoyed the present opening quite a bit, but I had a bitter taste in my mouth from a whole lot of "Shoulds" pointed my way. I felt outside the circle. I felt left behind, but also misunderstood in my choices. It was not a good feeling. 

Fast forward to today, when I attended a baby shower for a friend who struggled with infertility and suffered quite a bit of loss and bewilderment and desperation in her journey. She is pregnant, and it is amazing. She is an incredibly sensitive pregnant person. I was thrilled to go to her shower and celebrate her miracle pregnancy, and I didn't feel bitter at all. I have had the ugliness of jealousy pop up from time to time when I think about how her experience will just be so much less complicated than ours, that she got the miracle on-a-break pregnancy that we will simply never have, that she will get this experience. It is completely and utterly muted however by her sweet disposition, her incredible sensitivity, and her lack of "pregnancy amnesia" that sometimes hits people who have experienced infertility and then become the worst pregnant people ever, making their profile pictures ultrasounds you can't escape on facebook, complaining nonstop to you about an experience you wanted desperately and have made peace with never having, etc. etc. etc. 

The shower itself was gorgeous. It was in a beautiful room in a restaurant, it was well planned and tightly run so that it wasn't too long, games were unobtrusive (and I won one, which actually I won one at the other shower too. Cracks me up that suddenly I'm a baby shower winner, but the prize just isn't a baby, har har.), and they had the Baby Bingo that I so enjoy. You fill in the card with presents you think the mom will get, and then you pay attention to all the opening because if you get five in a row, BINGO. Brilliant concept. I had gluten free food options, including cupcakes she'd ordered special for me and one other intolerant guest. 

The problem was the table where I sat. 

They were all lovely ladies, people I knew marginally through our husbands and have met maybe once or twice before at Christmas parties or whatnot. HOWEVER. One woman had had her first baby three months before, and another was pregnant. Another young woman was somewhat recently married and excited to begin trying to have a baby. One more was interested in all things new motherhood, presumably because she is anxious to start on this path. 

And so began two and a half hours of detailed birth stories, tales of not wanting to have children and then flipping a switch and deciding it was "the right thing to do" and getting pregnant fairly immediately. Of how pregnancy hormones kick in and all that mothering instinct is RIGHT THERE. (Oh wait, no hormones for me.) You just KNOW how to hold the baby and how to feed the baby and it all comes together. Tales of the moment conversations were had with husbands, deciding that babies were to be in the future. Drugs or no drugs. Long labors or short labors. Gender reveals or keeping it a surprise. BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH. 

Statements like, "EVERYONE has a birth story, and they all seem to be SO DIFFERENT." 

Yup. I have a birth story, and it sure is different. It's just largely unwritten and I won't be the author. (But what about another woman at the table, who is childfree and won't ever have a birth story other than the one that brought her into the world? How does that feel?)

No one asked about adoption or brought it up in that context, even though one woman asked me if I had kids earlier in the event and I said we were waiting to adopt, and then a few questions were asked before I was informed that it is SO MUCH HARDER to adopt internationally because of all the travel and immigration and whatnot, and I SO KNOW YOUR TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS because I KNOW SOMEONE WHO ADOPTED. Sigh. I mean, it was nice to have it be a question that wasn't just a pleasantry, but I wish people would think before they speak. This person was redeemed by enthusiastically congratulating me as she left and telling me that I absolutely needed to share the news when it came. But still... even when my gift bag was covered in owls and someone told the new mama at the table, "that's your nursery theme! Awww!" and I said, "It's mine too..." no one commented. I just couldn't hold court with an actual mom with a physical, non-theoretical baby. The celebrated Mom-To-Be did occasionally give me a nod and when opening things that I had gotten too, said, "oh, Jess has this!" Which was lovely and again speaks to her inclusive nature and sensitivity. 

I left the table repeatedly to get more coffee or water or use the restroom, because it was just an onslaught of birth birth doula doula why the particular hospital she delivered in was the best. (That one smarted, actually, because it was the same hospital I would have delivered in, you know, if I was physically capable of getting and staying pregnant... but I kept my mouth shut. No one wants to hear Sad Sack at a joyous event.) It also bothered me greatly that those who wish to be pregnant spoke of it as an eventuality, with absolutely no sense of worry or possibility that it could be hard. Or simply not possible. It amazes me, being on the other side of that naivete, that people can live in such an iridescent bubble of innocence. Of course, in all probability, all of those women will get pregnant easily and women like me will remain a scary urban legend. All the more reason to keep my trap shut. 

I felt kind of like an internal Debbie Downer, but at the same time I was enthusiastically oooohing and ahhhhing over all the baby loot, because it took me away from the ridiculousness at my table and brought it back to the FOCUS OF THE EVENT, which was my friend and her impending motherhood. That part was amazing. 

And, towards the end, I met a friend of my friend's who was just starting her first (and hopefully last) egg donor cycle. SHE WAS ON LUPRON AND ATTENDED THE BABY SHOWER. Now, THAT is an amazing friend. (She said that was why she was downing the punch, ha ha.) All I could think was, thank goodness she wasn't at my table. We chatted for a while and I offered up that if she wanted to contact me I'd be happy to be a support, either information or whatever. I hope things work out for her, and I wished we had had more time to talk, although I could see the teary eyes starting at points in our conversation and I felt badly, like maybe talking about it at the baby shower was breaking down that cellular wall that kept the sadness and left-behind feelings on the outside. It was still lovely to meet a kindred spirit, someone for whom the shower was both celebratory of an infertility survivor, but probably difficult as well. 

I guess the upshot is that regardless of how well-adjusted I think I am, baby showers are STILL HARD. They will probably always be hard. Even though I got my own and it's not something I feel I'll never experience, there's a difference when your shower lacks that sense of "someday... who knows when..." I didn't get to rub my pregnant belly. I didn't get to have an ultrasound of the baby growing in another woman's belly on the cake table. I don't even remotely have a due date. I will never join in on tales of birth stories, even if I have one that I witnessed as an outside-insider. I won't have miraculously thick hair from pregnancy (but I also won't lose it in clumps after the baby comes). There's so much I will have, so many beautiful experiences still to come, but it's still just so hard to acknowledge all the ones I've lost. And as much as in a way we revel in our uncertainty, living in the present and soaking up all we can from our just-us time, days like these make the uncertainty pull at my chest, reopening a gaping wound I've stitched up over and over again. 

This will pass, and one day hopefully we will all have our own stories of new's just so hard not knowing when that story will be written. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: The Super Bowl Milestones

We are not big football fans (understatement of the year for me), but we watch the Super Bowl. We watch it for the commercials, for the squares I do at school (but never win), and Bryce actually gets into the game itself. I still have no interest in that, but am starting to pick up on a few things now that I'm nearly 40.

The Super Bowl is tied to two events for us -- one sad and one an amazing open door.

Six years ago our beloved greyhound, Doc, passed away at 3 in the morning on that Sunday of multiple organ failure. It was incredibly sad and traumatic, and spending time in an emergency animal hospital on Super Bowl Sunday in the middle of the night is a surreal experience. After Doc died, we never had another dog for keeps. Someday, maybe.

However, ONE year ago we had made the decision to put in our adoption agency application. One year ago TODAY I had a miraculous post-Super Bowl snow day, and I spent the day filling out that ginormous application and submitted it coincidentally right about this time of night.

While I half-heartedly watch the game and really am in it for the commercials (Marilyn Monroe! Intense sock discussions!) and the food (pulled pork and 7-layer dip!), the Super Bowl reminds me of these milestones, one of which hopefully will be looked on fondly as, "Remember when we filled out our application that brought us YOU?" That will be something to cheer for.

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

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Power of Perseverance

Over the last few days, my facebook feed has been filled with messages and obituary articles about a beloved figure at my high school, Coach Z. He was a social studies teacher and a track coach, and he passed away leaving a tremendous legacy of students and runners and co-workers who loved him and remember him fondly. Everyone, EVERYONE has stories about Coach EZ.

I didn't have him as a teacher, but he was my coach for a time. And while to call myself an athlete would be an incredible overstatement, he was an amazing leader and motivator and I learned so much from the way that he coached.

Particularly because I sucked.

I didn't join track because I loved running. I joined track my sophomore year of high school because one of my best friends convinced me that we needed to join a sport -- "Colleges like well-rounded applicants and we don't play a sport--we need to play a sport." I felt pretty well-rounded -- I sang in the choir, I played violin in the orchestra and occasional quartets, I was getting involved in musical theater both in the Pit and on the stage... but she was right. There was no sport, and everything was arts, and so I had more of a lopsided shape than a round one.

"But I'm not coordinated! I hate sports with balls! I won't make the team, no matter what we pick," I wailed, knowing that my only athletic experience was P.E. And in P.E, my experience was primarily getting hit with balls: getting hit in the head with a basketball even when I was sitting against the wall and not playing, getting hit in the head with foul softballs, getting a direct hit in the gut with a soccerball.

"We'll do track! It's a team, but it's not a team like basketball or soccer. It'll be perfect."

Oy. We went, and we did our warm up and stretches, and then everyone (including myself) quickly realized just how much I sucked.

As in, I couldn't even make it once around the track without stopping. I was skinny at the time, but woefully out of shape and fairly recently diagnosed with asthma. I had terrible joints. It did not bode well.

But did I get kicked off the team? NO. Coach Zem encouraged me to work harder, to make it all the way around the track and to get my muscles into shape. He knew I was not going to be a star. But I didn't have to be a dud, either.

When we started races, I ran the 1500m and the 800m. Although to be fair, to say that I ran is not quite accurate. I shuffled the 1500m and the 800m. I came in last, EVERY SINGLE TIME, and not by a little bit. By as much as an entire lap. Which meant I was often "running" by myself for a painfully long time.

But I was determined to get this, if not to be some miracle track star breakout then to prove that I COULD DO IT. And I didn't feel ignored or like my coach was aggravated by my incredible lack of talent. I felt encouraged to try to make my body do this running thing better each time, to run those stairs and hills faster and faster, to run around the track without stopping until I at least didn't utterly suck.

It was hard. In the beginning (and actually, even later when I wasn't so sucktastic), people were mean. I had a girl approach me in the cafeteria and say, "Why don't you just quit? You're not only embarrassing yourself, you're embarrassing THE SCHOOL. Ugh." What she didn't know was that that kind of comment just made me want to stay in it more, and prove her wrong. There were boys who loved to stand at the sidelines, at about the 300m mark on the track, and clap sarcastically as I went by. Nice, right? But again, I didn't really give a shit. I didn't quit. I wouldn't quit. If I had to run a whole lap by myself, SO BE IT. (And it was so.)

At one point that first year, Coach pulled me aside and asked, "Maybe you'd like to try the speed walking... we haven't had anyone on that event in a while and it might be a good one for you!" I thanked him for his thoughts and said no. I'm sure he went home a little exasperated, why won't this poor uncoordinated, wheezy, slow girl just throw in the towel, but he never showed that to me. He pushed me to work harder. He celebrated when I started to do better. And that meant so much to me. He believed in me, even though I wasn't a medal-winner.

In that first year, I would line up at the starting line for the dead last heat, and overhear things like, "Oh good, Jessica H. is in my heat. That means I won't come in last." Ouch. But, true.

Until it wasn't.

I did the weights. I did the wind sprints. I ran the godawful hill from the track up to the soccer fields (or whatever tiered field was at the top, my high school was at the top of a ginormous hill and when you went sledding in the winter it was called Killer Hill, and we ran about halfway up the crazy hilled driveway that led to the field house behind the track). I ran up the stairs with the bleachers, the Rocky theme in my head all the time. I made friends. I survived teasing about my knock-knees. And I got faster.

A setback to my confidence and newfound not-suckiness was when we went to West Point for the NY State Championships. You could enter one runner in every race, but they had to qualify once you had two or more. We had no one for the 3200m, a terribly grueling race to run on a track. Especially one that's only 200m instead of 400m. 16 laps around a short track. Guess who got put into the 3200m, because she was finally not unable to run, and no one else wanted to do it? ME. Except everyone else from other teams actually qualified. I wouldn't have qualified, not even remotely. So when the gun went off, I was immediately far behind the pack. And then I got lapped. And then lapped again. And then again. The officials tried to get me to get off the track. But I was counting, and I was determined to finish. I was not going to just slink off the track at West Point! No siree! I was going to FINISH, even if it was horribly embarrassing. Would you call running almost 4 full laps by yourself embarrassing? I may have held up some events, and people were not happy with me, but I did it. I finished a race at West Point. Just way, way later than everyone else.

However, by the time I was in my last year of track, before my embarrassing knee injury that was 100% not athleticism-related, I was in the FIRST HEAT for the 800 and the 1500. I got to be on relay teams. And while I never "broke 3," ran an 800m in less than 3 minutes, I did hit 3:04 for my fastest time. Which is pretty freaking amazing considering just a short time earlier I couldn't make it around the track without stopping. I even won a couple medals, although not fancy ones and I certainly didn't qualify for anything, I MEDALED WHEN I PRACTICALLY COULD NOT EVEN RUN BEFORE.

It was a glorious feeling. And I owed a lot of it to a coach who never gave up on me, who never encouraged me to perhaps put my energies 100% into my violin and give this running thing a rest, who cheered me on as I improved, even though no college scouts would ever look at me other than to say, "How'd SHE get on the team?"

This knack for perseverance followed me throughout my life. It helped me to realize my dream of becoming a teacher, even when I had very little support from my ex-husband to go back to school and my divorce landed right in the middle of my field experience and student teaching days. And it certainly helped me to keep on going through the worst discouragement of my life -- realizing that it was going to be an all-out battle to have a family, that nothing was going to come easy and I was going to experience loss and feelings of utter failure. That I was going to feel lapped, reproductively. And yet I didn't stop. I didn't quit the team. I am trying a new event, and I realized that medically we weren't going to ever become parents. Which is hard, but not the same as giving up. I read a book recently, Counting by Sevens by Holly Goldberg Sloan, and the main character who deals with grief of her own says, "Giving in is not the same as giving up." I gave in and realized that biological parenthood was not for me, that I was being lapped and no hills-and-stairs regimen was going to fix it. But I didn't let go of parenthood, and we are pursuing adoption--and even though it requires a fair amount of perseverance and sometimes that feeling of being lapped...I know we'll cross that finish line. We might be running several laps by ourselves and wondering if we should just gracefully get off the track, but we're STAYING ON THAT TRACK, dammit.

That's a lesson that I learned from running track, with Coach Z at the helm. Keep going. Work hard, and you'll see results, even if those results aren't exactly what you originally envisioned. Go after your dream and don't let people tell you you can't. I didn't know Coach Z as much as many people who ran all 4 years or were actually terrific athletes, but I feel he made an impact on me and my attitude towards perseverance, and I am sad he's gone early from this world. He'll live on though, in the memories of all the many students he motivated, and in my memories of those foundational experiences that later helped me get through some of the hardest moments of my life.

Monday, February 1, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: Countdown to Forty

This is the year...the countdown has begun.

This May, I turn forty.

And this past weekend, it suckerpunched me in my pleasantly laugh-lined face.

There are things you think will be in place by the time you're forty, you know? And so many of them are. I am a lucky lucky lady to have an amazing husband and a job I love and feel meant to do. We just have that pesky baby-shaped hole to contend with.

And maybe that hole won't exist in May, but the maybe made me very sad over the weekend.

We were sitting at dinner, planning out what we might or might not do for my fortieth birthday (party? go away? hide?) and then it occurred to us that whatever is planned, needs to have a cancellation policy...just in case.

This Just In Case would be wonderful, and I would gladly forgo birthday celebration in favor of having Mystery Baby revealed and in our arms, but the overwhelming uncertainty of it all put me in a funk that lasted all weekend long and left me feeling a bit hollow.

I'm not a liar when I say that not getting chosen by that profile call wasn't devastating and that it just wasn't our baby then...but the disappointment is having a bit of a lasting effect on me. It took five months to get that call...what if it takes five more to get a second one? What if I face another birthday (and a BIG one at that) and another Mother's Day (which happens the weekend right after my birthday, EVERY SINGLE YEAR) in this ether of uncertainty and waiting?

There's not much use in mulling over it too much, but all the uncertainty and feeling makes me think:

Here it is, that milestone that had Meg Ryan in tears in When Harry Met Sally: "And I'm going to be FORTY! SOMEDAAAAAAYYYYYY!" and my someday is marching fast on the horizon..."It's just sitting there, like a big dead end!" 

Somehow forty without our family resolved feels like a slap in the face even though I've known for a year that forty doesn't mean much for my reproductive capabilities. I already know my biological clock is broken and can't be repaired.

It's a dark splotch on my otherwise sunny disposition. Hopefully as it gets closer I can be more at peace with what forty is and feels like, for me.

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