Saturday, April 23, 2016

And How Are You Doing With The Whole Turning 40 Thing?

Something I grudgingly have to admit that infertility taught me is the importance of self care. I started getting massages on the regular for stress relief during treatment, and then decided that I shouldn't stop just because my body isn't part of the babymaking process anymore. The stress certainly hasn't gone away, as the tension in my shoulders, neck, and skull can attest, and I can and should invest the time and money to take care of myself. I am worth it just for me, not only as a part of my ill-fated attempts to be a better vessel.

With that concept of nourishing myself in mind, I go once or twice a month for an hour to hour-and-a-half massage with the same person every time. She can really get into my trouble spots without making me feel like I'm paying for pain, and what she does with craniosacral massage is like a minor miracle for both my muscle tension and my migraines. I wish that she could follow me around all the time and do what she does to the base of my skull on demand. It feels like she's lifting my skull off my spine (which sounds gross but feels amazing), and I end up feeling such an incredible lightness behind my eyes. It's like I'm floating in a phosphorescent sea of stars. In a good way, not a concussion-y or trippy kind of way. It's too bad I can't achieve the same effect myself. I've tried but it just doesn't work.

The last session I had was last weekend, and when I was doing the awkward naked-boob-flip-over she said, "Isn't your birthday coming up? 40, right? How are you feeling about all that? Because my friend is turning 30 and she's totally freaking out."

Okay, so normally that would probably ruin a massage because all the OHMYGODI'MTURNING40INWEEKSNOTMONTHS thoughts would start cycling and my shoulders would start tightening and all of a sudden all the work would be undone.


I said, "Oh, yeahhh. That thing," while exhaling deeply.

And then I told her how I felt.

Which is, that I swing back and forth (not too dissimilar from how I feel about the adoption wait). Some days I feel really kind of sad and depressed and fatalistic about it. I think about how my joints are falling apart and how my asthma tried to kill me when I had the flu, and how my metabolism pretty much decided I didn't need it anymore (COME BACK! I need you!)...and I feel not so great about hitting a new decade where none of these things will likely improve. I worry about physical repercussions from all the estrogen spikes during IVF and fear breast cancer, even though this is not entirely logical. I go down a very dark spiral where my body just gives out or I receive a scary diagnosis and then all of a sudden we aren't able to continue down the adoption road. I am capable of many, many dark thoughts about completely deteriorating in my forties.

But then I think, a lot of times women who are turning forty are sad about the whole biological clock thing -- especially if they want children but don't have them for whatever reason, or even if they have children and are just morose about the finality of going into the decade where menopause tends to start its wheels a-turnin'. It feels like a dead end of sorts, to paraphrase Meg R.yan in When Harry Met Sally.

My biological clock shattered against a wall years ago, so I don't have to be sad about that part. I've been sad enough about that part to last a lifetime, in my thirties, and so I don't really have to revisit it now. I feel like that particular piece didn't get attached to forty for me. BOOM, silver lining.

I also think, I have my shit TOGETHER when it comes to going into a new decade. When I turned thirty, everything was in spectacular disarray -- no home, no marriage, I was going to quit my job in a matter of months so I could student teach (which is working more than full-time and paying for it instead of being paid)... there really wasn't much that was in place other than having a very supportive family and wonderful friends. But now is a VERY different story, as I've written before.

I have a beautiful marriage, as described in about a zillion blog posts that are truly love letters to Bryce.

I have a beautiful home that is filled with over 10,000 books (like the nerds we are we sort of estimate-counted the other night) and rarely has a TV going because we just enjoy each other's company and the quiet of reading and working on our own projects THAT MUCH. Seriously, last night after our Friday night Mexican date, we were talking and then all of a sudden Bryce had his guitar out and was trying to teach me how to play one part of this song he's been working on and made a breakthrough with while using the reverb on his amplifier. I got frustrated because I could NOT get it maybe because of the angle and size of the instrument, so I got out my violin to try to teach him something on that. This led to a comparison of the range of octaves on the guitar and the violin (and how being good at one DOES NOT necessarily translate into any aptitude for the other, apparently, especially when tequila is involved), and then all of a sudden he's playing Michael Hedges and I'm playing the meditation from Thais and we start laughing because we are such nerds but love our nerdy life together SO MUCH.

I have a job that I absolutely love. You know you love your job when your doctor tells you under no circumstances are you to work for a week and you try to negotiate fewer days even though you are struggling to breathe because you can't imagine not being there for so long. A job where there are 9 weeks of school left with students and you wonder at how that can be and freak out because I'M NOT DONE WITH YOU YET! I have so much left that I want to do with my students and I'm concerned I'm not going to get to it all. I have never loved my job the way I love permeates everything I do. I was in the shower this morning and I got all excited because I was thinking on how to rework a research project unit in my reading class that I won't get to this year for next year...all even though I'm really hoping I'm out on leave for a good chunk of next school year. Regardless, I'm still planning all the things I could do with another group while already getting sad about missing this group of students. That is an amazing feeling.

It seems I have SO MUCH that it almost feels selfish to want Mystery Baby, too. But I know it's not. I don't think most fertile people stop to think if they're just too happy to have a baby.

I still have that wonderfully supportive family and terrific circle of friends, and one of my friends recently said, "You know what? Even though you don't have the baby yet, that can be what your forties are all about. You spent your thirties getting everything else in order, and now you can focus your forties on becoming and being an amazing parent." I nearly cried (actually I probably did cry) because it was such a beautiful way to frame the splinter in my happiness that occasionally gets inflamed and at times feels infected and throbby.

Because that does actually bother me, going into my birthday while not being a parent yet, and then shortly thereafter ANOTHER freaking Mother's Day that's not mine to celebrate. Still being in a place where we're waiting for that star to align is hard. Not in an all-consuming kind of way, but the splinter's still there and even when it doesn't hurt, I'm aware of its presence.

Like yesterday, when I only had two students in my 9th period due to a rash of absences and for some reason something came up that made me mention that my birthday is less than two weeks away and I'mgonnabeFORTY, and one student was so sweet in intentions but said, "Well, maybe this will make you feel better! My mom is 43...does that help?"

Oh innocent thirteen year

I said, "That's really sweet of you to try to make me feel better, but you're thirteen, right? When I have a thirteen year old, assuming our baby comes in the next year...I'll be FIFTY THREE when he or she is an 8th grader."

"Ohhhhh, I get how that wouldn't make you feel better," she said. I thanked her for trying though.

Then another student said, "Well MY dad is 51, and he's got lots of energy and is really strong, so that doesn't have to mean anything."

See why I love my kids so much? That did make me feel better. How lovely of both my students to try to cheer me up.

Because that IS my biggest fear. That we'll be the oldest parents, that we'll have used up all our energy getting to the parenthood point, that I'll be dealing with my child's puberty while I'm going through menopause (man is that a bad combo), that I'll be worrying about retirement and paying for college at the very same time. I mean, all of those things may be true, but I'm hoping my second student is right, and that being an older parent forces you to keep your energy going. We can do this! It doesn't have to be a tragedy where we are like, "Go kick the ball against the wall, my arthritis is acting up," or "go play tag with your shadow, I'm just so tired and old right now."  Our child can somehow make us feel more youthful, active, and limber in body and mind...Right? RIGHT? Please, please tell me I'm right.

Right now, I'm feeling pretty good about turning forty. I am trying to focus so much more on all the pieces that are beautifully set and locked in place, and less on the one piece that isn't. I feel this way even though it goes through me like a fork in the eye when you're down and people say, "Concentrate on what you have to be grateful for." Don't you tell me to be grateful! Sometimes you need to wallow in the things that AREN'T and that is a good, natural, processing-grief thing to do. Forcing me to feel grateful when I need to mourn a loss only makes me feel like people want to skirt past the pain because it's uncomfortable...for them. Seriously, we need to get better about how we deal with grief in this society--that it's something to work through in your own time, not get past as quickly as possible. Maybe it's harder when you're grieving the loss of tiny beings who didn't get to truly exist, some more than others, or the continued absence of a baby who doesn't exist yet but is coming soon...hopefully.

But, in this case? I really do want to focus on the positives, on all the overwhelmingly amazing things to love about my life, which celebrates forty years of highs and lows in a scant 12 days. I have a really beautiful life. It helps that no one's telling me what to feel, that I've decided this on my own.

Things turned out differently than I originally thought they would. But...they turned out more beautifully than I could have ever imagined, even with all the twists and turns and pain and losses and setbacks we never could have seen coming. Maybe in some ways BECAUSE of those twisty parts.

I love the idea of saving something for my forties to work through SO MUCH. I'm going to go with that. I am going to celebrate the pants off this new birthday, the one that earlier in my thirties I thought of as a big dead end and now is the most exciting of beginnings.

So many things to look forward to. Bring it on.


  1. Sometimes in life we have to make our own happiness and you and Bryce have done an amazing job of doing just that. Happiest of Birthdays to you Jess, so much more to come. Love Nancy XO

    1. Thank you! I definitely think that we have made our own happiness. :)

  2. I think one of the lessons of getting older is that while the "dark spirals" might still be there, we can get better at avoiding them and minimizing their power. So the dark spiral or the fear of it doesn't take over everything. It sounds like you are in an amazing place in your life. A happy life makes all the age milestones easier. Of course the other lesson of aging is that everything is temporary and will come to an end (hoping this particular one at least can be learned fairly gradually). A child in one's life can take some of the sting out of that one, and I hope that happens fir you soon! In the meantime I'm sure you are doing wonderful things with your students: it's not the same as parenting, but there are parallels.

    1. Thank you -- I love that idea that the dark spirals come, but we don't let them take over anymore because we're wiser than that now, or have more power, or something equally awesome. I agree that the whole life is temporary thing is more and more realized the older you get, but hopefully that just inspires us to keep juicing everything we can out of the fruit we've got.

  3. Birthdays always bring reflection. Decade birthdays bring analysis. Grey is turning 40 yrs old this year and it's brought a lot of self analysis for both of us. It's hard not to compare and beat yourself up for what hasn't been accomplished or about dreams that were missed.

    The thing is, there's beauty with living your life. Just as you've pointed out here. That even though you'll be exiting your 30s without checking the box that says "parent," you've still got so many things to check. And there are advantages to being that older parent too.

    Beautiful post. May your 40s be a decade where the last of those pieces fall into place.

    1. Thank you -- I agree, I feel like the months leading up to 40 have had me really examining my life and evaluating where I am. I do have an awful lot of checkboxes, which is lovely. That "parent" one will come, and I appreciate your thoughts on being an older parent! A friend send me the most lovely text message explaining how having your family close to middle age doesn't really allow you to have that midlife crisis where you're fearing death as much, because you've got this new life just beginning. I loved that. Thank you so much for your thoughts -- I hope the 40s are amazing. My 30s are a hard act to follow, even with all the struggling to have a baby.

  4. This is beautiful and so encapsulates all the messy loveliness of living. You have an amazing way of integrating both the hard parts and the hopes and the good.

    Totally hear you about the people who insist one must be grateful when mourning a loss and how frustrating that can be. I love how you point out that when that motivation to be grateful comes from within, however, it's a very different thing.

    May it be a happy birthday for you with celebration and so many good things to come.

    1. Thank you so much -- I feel like that's what life is, right? A mixed bag of hard parts and good parts and hopes for the future with a little (or a lot of) fear sprinkled in. Thank you for your kinds words, and I'm glad it resonated with you!

  5. I really, really like this post. It is not easy being older and wanting to start a family when so many people are in the thick of doing it. It can make you feel like you are behind or missed out. But really, it is just reorganizing things a little. Some people say they lose themselves in their thirties when they are focused on being a parent. Then time comes along and wakes them up in their forties and they may need to go find themselves. Maybe being older when entering parenting allows you to know who you are. It may give you an edge of confidence and wisdom and prioritization. Love your attitude as you ready yourself for a new decade!

  6. Happy birthday! and best wishes to you on your journey!

    1. Thank you so much, appreciated on both counts! :)

  7. Here from Mel's round-up and so glad I got to read this. I am also turning 40 next month, but in a very different place in both my life and my attitude. I love how you are looking to the positive, and how wonderfully you described the beauty in your marriage, home, work, and self-care regimen. You really used your 30s to set an incredible foundation for the new joys your 40s hopefully bring. Happy Birthday!

    1. Thank you and happy birthday right back at you! I have ups and downs with my birthday, but I'm trying to make the best of it and look at all the things I can be super proud of (and that I had control over), so that those overshadow the arena that's still to come.