Thursday, June 30, 2016

Can't Escape Grief, Apparently

The other day I went to a workshop. As in, I spent the second full day of summer, six hours in a largely beige, windowless hotel ballroom. It was on active, deeper thinking skills and cultivating a classroom focused on thinking strategies, so it was worth the void of sun and getting up and dressed at 7:20 on a weekday after school's let out.

Another teacher and I walked into the hotel, and saw two signs for conferences -- one for the teacher one we were going to, and another for...

Helping Your Clients Cope With Grief.

For a second I thought, "Wow, I could get a two for one sale here."

But, I diligently filed into the teacher one, and soon discovered that there were some A/V issues.

First, the microphones went in and out. But the presenters were teacher-type people, so who needs a microphone? Not them, so they ditched the amplification.

But then, the weirdest thing happened.

Our presenters were speaking, and at the same time, our speakers started broadcasting a low-toned, friendly, calm voice.

A voice that said, clear as day:

You will have a client who has grief resurface in a very real way, who will say, "Hey, I thought I DEALT with that grief, but here it is again!" You need to help your client realize that there is no endpoint for grief.

Whoa. It was very distracting, because not a week or two ago I had that very experience, when a photo brought back to me the moment of realizing that a tiny black and white picture with a void and a blip was all I'd probably ever have of a pregnancy, of that soul-ripping loss of what-could-have-been, and it was all triggered by something seemingly so innocuous. And I thought, briefly, "I still can't be this upset, that was YEARS ago... how can my grief still be so palpable when I am clearly on another path?" What is WRONG with me?

That snippet of the grief conference faded in and out and then everyone turned off their mics and we were left without tips on how to cope with grief in addition to how to engage our students in challenging creation.

I hope though, that I wasn't the only one to catch the somewhat subliminal message. How we deal with grief is personal, and it ebbs and flows, no matter what the loss is. So many people have this preconceived notion that grief has a timeline, that there are neat and tidy stages that you move through in a linear fashion and then it is merely a dark spot, a blemish in your tree rings, evidence of a trauma that happened in the past but shouldn't really affect you now. That's a lie. Those stages are real -- the denial, the anger, the bargaining, the sadness, the acceptance...but they don't necessarily stay in that order, and you can return to them over and over and over. It can be a physical trigger that brings it back, or just a sad day where your thoughts turn inward and you realize that your grief is lying there, buried, and needs a little airing out so it doesn't fester. Accepting your grief doesn't mean that you don't feel it anymore, you just don't feel it quite so viscerally, all of the time.

Stole this from Pinterest, so not quite sure who to give credit to, but it's pretty damn accurate.

That A/V mess-up in my conference was such a great reminder -- because that therapist's soothing voice cut through everything else to deliver a message that grief can and will pop up, and that's okay and even normal, if surprising (sort of like having the topic of grief wend its way through the speakers at a teaching conference). A reaffirmation that what happened two weeks ago that threw me into a major funk is NOT a sign that I am not adjusting well to my new reality, or that I am not committed to my chosen path to parenthood, or that I haven't "dealt" with my grief well enough, but that I will continue dealing with the loss of that baby that would have been half me and half Bryce from time to time and THAT'S OKAY. That there's no expiration date on those kinds of feelings. That grief is a process, a personal process that doesn't follow a scripted path.

How lovely to receive a message of validation in the strangest of places, in a moment of crossed wires and shared conference space.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Home Study vs Home Study Update

Preparing for your initial home study visits can be stressful. For us, we knew sort of what to expect, in theory...having read a lot about it and pinned tons of things to Pinterest and done practice runs of typical home study interview questions. We did not, however, know who our social worker would be or in what direction the conversation would go. Would it matter that we were both previously married? Would it matter that our infertility journey was crazy? Would we be seen as "good enough?" Did we need fire extinguishers everywhere and proof of a fire evacuation plan? How clean did our house really have to be? We read over and over that it didn't have to be a "white glove test," that really they were just looking at safety and health and reasonable space for a baby and the purely necessary things that accompany one, but how do you not scour your house in case hairs on the floor of your bathroom could tip the scales towards an unfavorable report?

None of those turned out to be logical worries, not really. We had our original visits, and after the first individual meetings (first me, then Bryce) we felt SO MUCH MORE at ease with the process. Our social worker was super low-key and genuinely interested in our lives and our aspirations to parent. It was a non-judgy atmosphere. She loved our home and our story. It was a positive experience.

Going into our joint visit we were more at ease, and so it felt more like a conversation, which is really what a home study visit turns out to be -- talking about your history, your childhood and how you were parented, your marriage, your attempts thus far to become parents, your vision for parenthood. Your expectations (realistic or not) for adoption. Your awareness of all the complex issues inherent in adoption, from fostering a healthy open adoption to working through grief and loss in your child of their first family, even if that loss occurred within minutes to hours of birth.

We left our first home study experience feeling like even though you would never ever believe anyone that it is not a big deal before experiencing it yourself, that it truly was almost a pleasant experience. We got to talk about our origins as people, as a couple, and as parents. It made us have tough conversations to prep but then to know where we are completely on the same page and where we have differences that aren't huge at all, just different. It's a process I firmly believe to be beneficial for any waiting parent, no matter what the means of family building, but one that's only legally required for adoption.

Fast forward a year...and we needed to update our home study. Which meant redoing all of the scads of paperwork (still not a convict, check! still no TB, check! still gainfully employed, check! still spending more money on books than clothes, check check check!), but also having another home visit, with the same social worker.

I wanted to be chill about it all, since we knew what to expect, but I still spent all of today cleaning like crazy, using up a zillion joules of electricity vacuuming everything from the carpets to the couch to the walls where pesky cobwebs had been giving me the side-eye for weeks... scrubbing down toilets and sinks and dusting baseboards. I did NOT, however, clear all surfaces. I left piles of books on the coffee table and files on my desk, and one tiny pile of mail and magazines on the dining room table. It had to look like people (okay fine, ME, Bryce would eradicate piles entirely given the chance) actually lived here, too.

I dusted the tiny rocking chair in our nursery, and felt a little sad.

Because no one actually WANTS to do a home study update. It means you weren't placed in that first year. It's common, but still disappointing. You hope to do your home study and then have the next visit from a social worker be your first post-placement visit. It lies on the side of bittersweet.

We are lucky, though. We love our social worker. She made this visit like a conversation with an old friend, where we explained how our profile opportunities went and how we've continued educating ourselves and what new things have been accomplished/explored/discussed in the past year with regards to adoption. our careers, our home, and our health. We showed her our profile book, and our nursery -- both things that weren't completed the last time she was here. It lasted a little over an hour, and then was done.

Now we wait for our report to come in, and to be recertified for another year of being eligible adoptive parents just waiting for that Just-Right Call to come in. We hope not to be doing another update in a year...we hope that this is the last visit that doesn't involve checking in on how we're adjusting to parenting a newborn with very little notice comparatively speaking. But if it does...we know how it goes, and it will be fine.

May the cobwebs have a chance to thrive because we're too busy caring for our infant to vacuum the walls before our post-placement visits.

Monday, June 27, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: In a Different Two-Week Wait

We are into Week Two of waiting to see if we have a match for our frozen embryos...I'm assuming since we had two weeks to decide on the receiving couple that they also are limited to two weeks to decide on us.

We received note June 14th that our profile would be sent to the couple that Snowflakes had sent to us for our review...there was some question as their openness preferences originally seemed to sway towards more closed, while we would like semi-open with options for additional openness if the child wants to know more at some point.

They thought about it and came back to our contact with the statement that they were absolutely open to more if it's what the child wants, including contact between siblings.

Ouch. That assumes that we have success in the cohort (either one, since it's two different cohorts, two different genetic makeups, both unrelated to the other)...and we don't.

But they didn't know that yet.

And so we go into Monday, not knowing what discussions this couple has been having about our minimalistic-compared-to-our-own-profile-book powerpoint, about our letter that explains how our embryos are not excess, they are homeless, and how we are waiting as well, albeit through domestic infant adoption, and we just want to give these embryos a chance to be.

Trying not to think about how a (well-meaning but inept at expressing things verbally) friend said when I told her about our embryo adoption adventure from the placing side, "Who on earth would EVER take your embryos?"

Could have been phrased differently, but it IS a good question. It assumes a certain level of risk on top of the risk inherent in taking on someone else's embryos in hopes of creating a child. Add on to the "normal" risk factors multiple donors, multiple stages of development, and no success in either is a relevant question.

One that hopefully this week we get an answer to, either way.

It's weird to wait from this side of things, to wait to see if "our embryos" will become "the embryos formerly known as ours," especially when they were created by both of us but not totally of both of us. 

And we still wait for our own matching process that will bring us the baby that will be ours to parent...but in all scenarios there is some aspect of sharing.

It could make a body dizzy thinking on it for too long.

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

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Oh Body, Why Do You Hate Me So?

It amazes me how my body is constantly able to disappoint me in new ways. I keep trying to make peace, to be like, "Okay, 40-year-old PCOS-ridden body, I get that my body type will always lean towards soft in the middle, and that won't get better with age. I accept you. Sort of." I try to exercise, and then I injure my stupid knees or my left foot swells up or my ankle and I'm left feeling out of shape again. Not for lack of trying.

But this past week? A new development.

We went for a walk in the Thousand Acre Swamp, a Nature Conservancy reserve somewhat near our home. There's tons of frogs, and birds, and the trails often involve boardwalks over muck or through the swampy bog. It was beautiful, although completely covered in cottonwood (I HATE COTTONWOOD SO MUCH), and the bugs. THE BUGS.

I am a magnet for mosquitoes. I forgot to wear bug spray. It's hard, because I also have to wear sunscreen since I am the pastiest white person on earth, and those two typically don't react well together. Also, all the chemicals. There's natural types, but they are often very oily and I have a hard enough time with oil stains on my clothes without purposely coating my skin in oil. Anyway, I forgot bug spray and so there was a veritable buffet on my skin -- so many mosquitoes feasting on my blood for the duration of the 3-mile or so walk.

When I get bit by a mosquito, my skin immediately bubbles up into angry welts, and they stay FOREVER (I still have marks from last Sunday, a week ago). I have been told I have high histamine levels, because I break out into tiny hives and have that allergic reaction to about a zillion things.

However, Sunday's buggy walk apparently kicked my histamine levels into high gear because Monday afternoon (a lovely 92 degree day spent working in my classrooms, un-air-conditioned, sweating like a beast) I broke into big, angry hives all over my torso, but mostly where clothing had touched me very closely, like around my bra and my underwear band.  They got worse and worse and I took some Benadryl and went to bed.

I woke up hiveless.

But then, come about 3:00, it started again, on my boobs, my back, my waistband, and then they spread to my armpits, my entire torso, and were horribly itchy and swollen. I took pictures, and then worried because I had pictures of my boobs on my phone, albeit completely unattractive, poxy boobs.

I took more Benadryl, and when I woke up the next morning, they were gone.

Wednesday the same thing happened, only earlier in the day, and it itched and burned and they grew to quarter sized welts and some even merged to half-dollar size, so I took Benadryl twice because the first dose didn't help at all, and went to bed, knowing that Thursday perhaps I should call the dermatologist and figure out what the hell was going on.

They had a midday appointment on Friday for me, and Thursday was better than Wednesday, although still hivey in the afternoon/evening, and more Benadryl, and so my evenings were pretty blah in the last week of school.

Friday came, blessed last day of school with the celebration at the high school with the whole district and then final packing up and cleaning...and then I headed to my doctor's appointment with pictures from Thursday in hand since I'd deleted the ones from Monday in fear that they'd somehow end up on Facebook by accident.

I was worried, because I don't get the hives midday. But, she saw the pictures, and was like, "Oh yeah, that's classic hives" and told me a fancy name for pressure-induced hives that are the result of an out-of-whack histamine level in the body. I would need to be on heavy-duty antihistamines for a month, one supposedly non-drowsy one in the morning and then a super drowsy strong one at night, and that should stop the hives.

Fantastic! Sounds great! I went home with a migraine that had started in the morning, and took a nap while my prescriptions got filled. I went to pick them up, found that they were to be filled the next day, begged for same-day fills, and walked around the store waiting for my relief in the form of tiny white pills to be filed into those orange bottles. As I walked, I felt my lip start to swell, and my boobs start to itch.

I got the pills, went home, and took the non-drowsy right away. At this point my upper lip was turning into a duck beak. I had hives all up my neck, into my hairline...big hard angry ones. I whipped my clothes off and found ginormous half-dollar hives EVERYWHERE, and my lip continued to swell until it felt like it might burst.

I called the derm office in a panic, because the pill wasn't having an immediate effect and I was afraid this was my worst breakout yet, and thankfully the nurse called me back even though it was 4:05 and their voicemail said calls after 4 would be returned the next business day. (I begged, "please, please call me back today...I don't know what to do with this!" I guess desperation worked.)

They put in a prescription for Prednisone, and told me to do cold compresses because hives hate cold. I took a cold shower, shooting cold water right at the hives, had Bryce pick up the prescription on his way home, and laid on the bed naked with the fan on. It was SO MISERABLE. My face was all puffy and crazy looking, my body covered in welts, and I was just so uncomfortable.

Luckily, the antihistamines and the Prednisone have prevented any further hives, and my lip is still slowly returning to its normal size.

I am bummed though, because here I am, at the start of summer, and I couldn't even toast with a margarita. At least while on the Prednisone, there will be no booze of any barbeque GF beer, no wine, no margaritas. Some kickoff to summer. Although, it is totally worth it to not have those horrible welts everywhere.

I can't help but think, could I be so allergic, have such a high rejection rate to anything irritable, that I was allergic to embryos? I am allergic to Bryce's beard...when we snuggle and his beard touches my neck or my arm I break out in (tiny) hives everywhere it touches me. The fairly innocuous kind that disappear quickly, but still. Could my high histamine levels have contributed to my infertility? I don't think so, but wouldn't that be a kicker. It doesn't matter now, but my mind can always go to that place, that "what if," because we never really got a defined answer as to why I couldn't keep embryos in me.

Regardless, the hives are thankfully gone, I have the nasty Prednisone taste in my mouth but small price to pay, and I look forward to toasting summer sometime in the next week or so, hiveless but still a little sleepy from the antihistamines. Thanks, body. Never a dull moment.

A hugely unflattering photo that doesn't even truly do justice to the swelling on my lips and the hives on my neck and shoulders, but gives you some idea of the misery. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Update Updates

Ahhhh. Our home study update visit is scheduled for next week. The last thread is getting knotted off.

I called the agency the other day and they put my mind at ease -- apparently very few home study dates line up exactly and we are comparatively in really good shape for our update. We would not miss any profile opportunities at all (it was incredibly hard not to say something snarky like, "Definitely not, given we haven't had one since March..."), and even if a last minute situation came up they could make it happen, expedite things. There is no reason to be anxious about it, we are in good shape, and the social worker should call later today (they had assigned her last week).

That did make me feel better. It's just that I feel when a ball starts rolling in April, it shouldn't slowly roll up a hill until late June. I am not processing a ton of paperwork, just filling out mine and sending it in, but it just seems it could be a bit more of a streamlined process. But, that is the control freak in me speaking. I have to quell this thought that "I wouldn't do it that way."

I can breathe a little easier though, knowing that we are all set for our update visit and soon we will have an updated home study in hand.

I did ask what's involved in an update visit. Apparently, a lot of it is talking about how the wait's been, how you feel about being one year later and renewing (rarely are people like "That's GREAT! Just what I wanted!"), how did you work though profile opportunities you did have, revisit the grid, show her the nursery or any other updates to the house. The end. My family advocate said it's bittersweet, because you get to connect with your home study and post-placement social worker again, but it's because nothing happened to further you to post-placement. So it's kind of disappointing.

That seemed accurate to me.

I know I probably won't go as crazy cleaning this time -- I won't be trying to have an eat-off-the-floor-or-toilet cleanliness standard Of course I'll be off for a couple days before so I could spend my first days of summer cleaning like a madwoman if I wanted to. I feel the urge to explain that I am buying black out blinds that are push-operated, no cords, because currently the nursery sports some lovely baby-killing cheapo bamboo blinds with cords that loop and dangle like little deathtraps. Obviously that will change. At least they're not over the crib.

I also sent out my email update to my school yesterday, the one that says where we are and has pictures of the nursery in it. I am really glad I did that because people have been coming out of the woodwork to tell me they've been thinking of us or praying for us or loved our nursery...either through email replies or by catching me in the hall. It's so nice. We have an army of well-wishers behind us in this effort.

I think I'm ready to head off into summer, without becoming a parent this year, but nearly recertified to become one...and knowing that we're ready, whenever FutureBaby decides to make his or her appearance.

Monday, June 20, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: Something to Look Forward To

Summer is a short four days away.

I have chosen not to perseverate on the fact that in 5 days, my home study will expire and my agency has yet to set us up with an appointment with the social worker, despite the fact that we paid our update fee in early April, our forms to complete weren't sent to us until early May, and I sent all the forms that we could complete by May 18 (although they apparently got lost in the mail for almost 2 weeks). I am choosing not to let that eat me up inside because we will most definitely have a lapse even though I was told, "your date is in late June, you're fiiiiine."

I mean, we haven't had an opportunity since March, so what are the chances we'll have one in the (hopefully super brief) time that our home study is expired?

I will try to forget all that, try to let go of any hopes or anticipations that MAYBE something might happen in the summer, because I keep doing this to myself and it doesn't ever seem to work out the way I thought it might.

So, I look forward to this:

Pardon my drumsticks, but you get the idea.

Blissful summertime, filled with dirt-streaked legs and arms from hours of gardening, reading a zillion books on my chaise lounge out back, and at least July without doing much of anything school-related, if I can help it. Time to relax, and build my stores up for another September where I'm pretty sure I will be there, and so I'd better plan as if I am. Reading, gardening, writing, lounging, THAT is something tangible to look forward to.

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

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Father's Day

Today is Father's Day. I am lucky -- I have my father AND my stepfather still alive, still kicking, and Bryce has the same -- a father and a stepfather, still very much here. We have spent the morning making phone calls, as very few of these influential men live near us (California, Texas, Maine...). My stepfather is on another long-distance biking journey, this time across West Virginia. We celebrated him for his Father's Day and birthday celebration last weekend, in a barbeque up at their house on the lake.

Father's Day has always been tricky, because I love my father very much but he missed a lot. He moved out when I was 13, and shortly thereafter moved across the country to L.A.. Due to his crazy entertainment industry, he was gone for long periods of time anyway, but after the divorce, with two weeks per year in the custody agreement, I saw him even less. It was (and is) hard -- so many missed moments, a whole teenage period, missed. It makes finding Father's Day cards hard, because so many say how "you've always been there, Dad" and while that's true in terms of 3-hour-time-difference phone conversations, in person not so much. I am proud of the relationship I culture with my father, probably free of some awkwardness BECAUSE so many of the teenage years were missed, and we can talk as friends on the phone. I see him once every few years, something complicated further by our family building efforts, but those times are precious. I wish we lived closer, I wish I could visit more frequently, but we do well given the time and modes of communication we have. Recently, my dad has been calling Bryce, too, to talk about audio things (he is a HUGE audiophile), and that makes me happy, that they have something to share in and bond over.

My stepfather came into our lives when I was 15, and he married my mom when I was 16, and so it was a very fast introduction and then all of a sudden there was this other man in my house where my father had once been and it was awfully hard not to feel teenagery and resentful. It was also hard to stay that way, because my stepfather is a man who exudes joy and adventurousness and has a goofy sense of humor often involving sticking things up his nose... and he survived the period where I really wanted to dislike him but frankly, couldn't. His family was skeptical about the wisdom of joining a family with two teenaged daughters, but he made it work. He is a unique individual, one who bikes across the country and takes trips to Nepal because he can, and then comes back for barbecues and croquet with questionable rules.

I treasure both the dads in my life, and I know how lucky I am to have them to talk to, to visit, to laugh with either in person or over the phone.

And even though I do feel fortunate, I also feel so sad, because Bryce is not a father yet. This is his 7th Father's Day without truly expecting to be a dad or actually being one, and it just seems so unfair. He would be amazing at this fatherhood thing, because:

   - He is patient. Like, really patient. When I come from school having used all mine up, he has enough for us both.
   - He is funny, and he can use laughter to defuse tense situations. I mean, sometimes the jokes are terrible puns, but isn't that perfect for a dad? Horrible jokes for your kids to groan over?
   - He is supportive. He always pushes me to do more, to be a better person, to follow my dreams, and I can just see him doing the same for our child, wherever he or she is hiding.
   - He is playful. He loves to do silly things, from playing with the cats to playing games to ridiculous prank-like jokes.
   - He has a way with small children, when he comes in contact with them, that isn't condescending, just silly and playful. He is able to "get" them. He is sufficiently weird, and kids love that.
   - He just has so much love to give. So. Much. Love.

When we have our discussions about how we'd like to parent, and what we value (both because it's good to do and we'd do it anyway, but also because we're legally required to due to the home study process), we're on the same page. We know that it's real easy to idealize what things will be like when we're not exhausted and don't have someone screaming or running or whatever. But, we feel the same about the importance of nature, of reading and books, of severely limiting screen time, of positive discipline, of building character and valuing perseverance, independence, and open-mindedness. Of supporting passions, even if they are foreign to us (please, please, please, do not send us a super football-obsessed kiddo...we'll figure it out but it will be like raising an alien until we get into the swing of things...). When I hear him speak of our future child and the life we want to build as a family, it makes me so warm, fills me with joy...and then stabs me with a million tiny jabs because this isn't reality, not yet.

Today we are staying low key, calling our dads, doing some yardwork, barbecuing in the backyard to celebrate the dad Bryce WILL be. I asked him if he wanted something special, if there was anything in particular he'd like so that I could make that happen. The one thing he wanted to do was to go into the park we can walk to from our house and see families, see dads in action, see what lies in store. It was surprising -- I mean, that to me sounds like a special kind of torture. But, he was feeling hopeful and optimistic--which is beautiful. And so like him. I warned him to stay off Faceb.ook, because it is just a landmine of men with their children, new fathers with babies, a barrage of everything we hope for but have been denied for so long. It's too much.

We live in this space where we waffle between "this is just never going to happen" and "this could happen any moment," between despair and hope and all points in between. So today I am thankful for the dads we have, and most appreciative and looking forward to the dad that Bryce will be, the Future Dad he will be for our Future Baby.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Is It Necessary to Include Ultrasound Photos in Announcements?

Last night was not a good night. Yesterday was a good day, being the last day of school with students and that dichotomy of best day/worst day, saying goodbye to everyone and knowing that at this time next week, summer will officially be here. But last night? A disaster.

Pregnancy announcements generally don't upset me as much any more, not the way they used to. I have learned to "like" them, and to never, EVER comment directly on the post. That results in a flood of notifications and then I'm reminded for days of just how much congratulations you get for achieving pregnancy, and of how awful it is to see varying iterations of the comments "welcome to the club" (that I'm left out of), "you'll never know a love like this" (maybe that's true in a way, but does that mean my un-mothered love is shallow???), and others that I don't need to see over, and over, and OVER. I either leave it at a shallow "like," or I post right on their page.

This one, however, was different.

It was weird that it affected me so much, because I knew it was coming. The mama-to-be in question is a cousin of a friend of mine, and my friend let me know the happy news weeks ago.

But it broke something inside me when it was official on Facebook, and I'm trying to figure out why.

Is it because I was 13 when she was born, I remember her beginnings as a baby and now she herself is having a baby?


Is it because I'm going into summer no closer to being a mama myself than at the beginning of the school year and I'm particularly sensitive due to that fact?


Was it the celebratory last-day-of-classes margaritas that made me a little weepy on a day where I was already emotionally drained from all the goodbyes?


These things all contributed, I'm sure. But I think I know the kicker.

The photo announcement was perfectly cute -- a couple with their adorable dog, signs saying how the dog was so good that he's getting a human for Christmas. Adorable. Pin.terest-worthy.

But then...she also proudly held up her ultrasound. A small black-and-white picture, a circle of dark fluid, and a bright white little blip, a sac.

It wasn't the biggest thing in the announcement photo as a whole. It wasn't as blatant as someone I know who announced the sex of her unborn child by, I kid you not, photoshopping a princess crown on a second trimester ultrasound picture. Is this a feature in Sna.pchat? What the hell is going on?

It caused a swiftly downward spiral. I wasn't surprised, I knew. It wasn't the announcement of the news itself. It was that goddamn sac ultrasound.

I couldn't help but think of my own picture, of a much smaller sac, but similar dynamics--smaller black void, smaller white blip, and then knowing that that was the ONLY picture of something growing somewhat normally inside of me I'd ever, ever have.

It hit me like a smack to the face with a two-by-four, this image that multiplied like a zillion Warhols, like the way a fly would see an ultrasound picture that was mine, one that ended not in a gender reveal but in bed rest that didn't work, in plummeting values, in animal sobs so loud I wondered if the neighbors were going to call the police. An image that is the only proof that once I was pregnant in my uterus, that once I had hope this could all be behind me, and that was the only experience I ever got. And that picture was taken on the day I bled, to prove maybe it would be okay. It wasn't.

I got real silent and weird at our Mexican restaurant. Bryce asked what was making me so sad and I told him, rather snappily, that I didn't want to talk about it there, in the restaurant. And when we got in the car, I cried. It started quiet and silent, and then just built up to this crescendo of sorrow, this overwhelming feeling of grief in what could-have-been, and I couldn't stop.

I cried for an hour. I cried until I couldn't breathe. It was like mourning that loss all over again, but now with the added slashes of having ended treatment, pregnancy impossible...waiting through adoption and having the one-year mark fast upon us without a match...having our profile with the couple who Snowflakes sent us and waiting to see if they choose us, if they choose our embryos to complete their family. It's a lot to mourn.

Did people used to share early ultrasound pictures before Faceb.ook? I remember seeing one on a friend's fridge, but that seems so much more private. I wonder if anyone ever considers that there are so many women out there who have seen that picture, only to have it ripped away. I don't quite understand this growing trend. Thankfully it doesn't appear to be the profile picture, because that really gets me. Then I don't have a choice, I have to see it, unless I forgo social media (which is seeming like a better idea all the time).

I don't even really like the later ultrasound pictures, especially the creepy 3-D ones. Those I've always hated, not just because I'm bitter but because for some reason, I feel a baking baby is not supposed to be seen in such detail. They look alien. You can sort of see their face before they're born, and people have conversations about noses and eyes and resemblances that really stymie me, because I often don't even see those when the newborn is out and about in the world. Maybe I'm weirdly traditional in this way.

The early scans, though...I feel like there should be more sensitivity. I don't want to take away someone's joy, but is it necessary to include the insides of your uterus, the unrecognizable-as-human blip in the middle? Couldn't that live on your fridge? Why share something so personal, so fragile?

I almost included my own picture here, as a contrast...but that would be hypocritical, right? What if my picture triggered someone else? Mine isn't a joyful image. It isn't a picture of promise, of parenthood to be. It's a representation of impending death. It's a could-have-been, not a what-will-be. And it's personal.

I want to live in the bubble where these things don't happen, where a sac is a photo of promise, not one that was broken.

No, I don't, now that I think on it. It's an insensitive bubble. Not wittingly, but born out of this idea that everything will work out, as I hope it does. It's just that sometimes (more than sometimes) it doesn't, and for those people an ultrasound picture like that triggers all kinds of emotions. To be oblivious to the possibility of that pain is to be oblivious of the possible pain of others who have lost.

I don't want to spend my Friday night wailing about how my uterus is a killing field. I don't want to be reminded that that will never, ever be for me. That once I had a picture not too different from that one, and it was all I had to cling to when I sobbed and sobbed after the dream was lost too soon.

These are the unintended consequences to a joyous announcement, one that might not have caused this level of angst if not for that tiny 3x5 black and white photo. To me, it's an unnecessary addition...and announcements without those grainy pictures of early life are beautiful on their own, maybe even more so. You don't need it like forensic evidence in the shot. We believe you without it.

Monday, June 13, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: The End Is Nigh

Four days...only four days left of classes with students (nine until summer is officially here).

This year just flew on by, and I'm painfully aware of the fact that I started the year with such hopes and optimism, telling everyone at the first faculty meetings of our adoption plans and how my phone would have to be on all the time, justincase...and nothing has changed. Well, we've had opportunities, but we still do not have parenthood. It's frustrating, and a little embarrassing.

I will miss my kids. I mean, I miss them every year, but I feel like I made some extra special connections this year.

This week means saying goodbye, and I am trying to do it in a way that lets them know just how special they are to me (but in a noncreepy way of course).

Thursday I give out my books to my Reading Class -- a book hand picked for each of them, based on what they liked throughout the year and with the hope that in receiving a book especially chosen for them that is inscribed with a personalized message that maybe, MAYBE they will read at least one book over the summer as they head to high school and don't have as much independent reading requirement. Which is sad, because more and more unless they have to, so many kids aren't reading. It makes me deeply troubled and very sad, but I hope that even in the tiniest way I have planted a seed in them that will germinate and sprout and flower if not now, then sometime down the line.

This year's books for this year's group. I have never read so many basketball AND soccer books in a year. I hope they love the books as much as I loved picking them out! 
Friday I give cards to my Resource group, with the quotes in them that they chose at the beginning of the year for their "about me" posters and a message from me about how much potential I see in them and how much I've enjoyed our time together.

It's hard to say goodbye, both to a whole school year and all my students. It's great to see them move on, to have another year under my belt. And I do have summer to look forward to...filled with time to read and relax and recharge for the whole new year and set of students to come. It's a beautiful cycle.

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

Sunday, June 12, 2016

When Your Therapist Moves Away

I love my therapist. She has been there through this journey for the long haul -- I met her as the support group facilitator before fertility yoga in about 2010, 2011ish. I loved her no-nonsense style, her emphasis on nurturing and her lack of floaty-positive-thinking-will-get-you-through-this. (It can help, at times, but if positive thinking could influence pregnancy outcomes, I'd be writing an entirely different blog...for years.) I started seeing her privately after a few months of group, and so she's seen me through:
- ectopic debacle
- miscarriage
- decision to go donor eggs
- decision to switch clinics
- decision to go sperm donor
- decision to end treatment
- decision to begin the adoption process
- processing all of this, all the decisions, all the losses, all the ways it impacted every aspect of life

It's not a small feat. She has done phone sessions when I could not meet in person and even came to my house when I was bedridden after the ectopic-surgery-asthma-attack-angry-suture-sites situation. She helps cut the bullshit. She says things like, "Stop shoulding on yourself" and "sometimes you just need to sit in the shit. You can't stay there forever, but it's important to just be there in the awfulness to start to heal." She's wise.

And she's leaving.

I am beside myself, because I really want her to be there when this all comes together, which hopefully results in us becoming parents through adoption. I want her to be there through an actual match, through the fearful waiting period around the birth, for the milestones that come with passing surrenders and revocation and finalization, for navigating whatever form of open adoption we have available to us... all of that. And she won't be, not in person.

She has offered up Skype/Facetime sessions as a transitional thing, and given me the name of another therapist who actually specializes in adoption. I'm not ready to move on though, even though she's moving away. Maybe over the summer I'll get a consultation with this other lady, but it's a hard act to follow.

I don't want to tell my story all over again to someone new who hasn't lived it WITH me.

I don't want someone who will tell me how brave and how strong I am after all I've been through -- that's nice, but I come for therapy because I DON'T feel so strong or so brave and it helps me gather tools to become that person who handles a pile of horseshit with a sense of humor (albeit a dark one) and with grace, hoping that under all that shit there's a pony just for me. I want someone who will drop an f-bomb and not flinch when I do it, who realizes that the last nearly-seven years of hell are WORTHY of f-bombs and it's a freaking miracle that I haven't had to go to wherever the celebrities go when they suffer "mental exhaustion." I feel exhausted, and I need to save some energy up for the baby who's out there, SOMEWHERE.

I know that life goes on and things like this happen. It was funny, because a few years ago my therapist said, "I have to tell you something" and I was like, "Ah. You're pregnant." I was right. And it was fine -- I've had another therapist become pregnant and then leave the practice at my previous clinic, but my current one was like, "if you can deal with it, I'm here for you." And I could, and she was. BECAUSE of who she was. This time she said, "I have to tell you something," and I sat a second and said, "Ah. You're moving." Right, again.

HOW CAN I LOSE THIS PERSON I CLEARLY HAVE A PSYCHIC CONNECTION WITH?  The Skype makes it like a "Goodbye, in person only" when I have my last session later this month, but I know. It won't be the same.

I've had my head thoroughly in the sand, actively steering conversation away from transitional threads, because I didn't want to think about navigating all this without her. Now I have no choice--just one session left. I was so hoping that something would come through before she left, but that seems unlikely in the space of a couple weeks.

Just one more way to leave things unfinished, to have these threads out flapping in the wind.

A huge thank you to the woman who I absolutely credit with saving me in my darkest moments, for making it possible for me to communicate that I get angry instead of sad because it's easier to lash out than to sink into the pit of despair that infertility has brought me time and time again. Who helps me to say no and take care of myself as everything unraveled, to see it as self-preservation and not selfish to back out of things where I knew there could be hurt (family reunions where everyone has children of one kind or another, out of town parties when we're prepping for homestudy, etc.). Who helps me sort through all this mess and figure out how I will deal no matter where we land in our journey, and to help me examine how all this might affect my parenting, for better or worse. Who helps me strengthen what is already strong between Bryce and me, who helps us together through tough decisions.

It's just so hard to say goodbye, even if it's "for now" or "until we Skype again." There's so much history, so many layers to the work we've done. It's hard to think that even notes could do it justice with someone new. So I keep my head in the sand a little longer and keep the transitional online sessions while figuring out if the new person is a good fit, and try not to compare her to my therapist who's leaving. That would be good for no one, because I can't imagine anyone being as good a fit for me as she was is. I can only hope for a new connection, and hope that I don't need quite as much support in the years that are to come, that I can phase therapy out, having been given the gifts that my therapist has offered over the past 5 years or so.

Monday, June 6, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: Ten Year Bench-o-versary

Ten years ago, I kissed Bryce on a bench.

We had our first in-person date after a couple emails back and forth on Match. Neither one of us wanted to be on Match, with him having survived a divorce and me in the thick of one, but both of us had friends who convinced us it would be "fun."

And then we found each other.

Ten years later, we have had beautiful times and sad times, we have grown together and hoped to grow as a family.

Tonight, we went for a walk in the same neighborhood where our bench was that we kissed on after walking and talking through a city neighborhood, coffee from our "safe," non-serial-killer friendly coffee spot meeting place in hand.

On the bench!

Then we went out for an impromptu fancy dinner, possible because we DON'T have kids.

We celebrated the ten years we have, the years to come, all we've experienced for good and for sad, and all the promise that lays before us. It was a great night. And now we go watch the end of Season Two of Game of Thrones (yes, we're horribly behind, don't spoil anything). A perfect end to a perfect night of celebration of our first date, our first meeting in person, the meeting that set off everything else that was (and will be) to come.

Out to fancy dinner, my hair getting ever so slightly fluffier as time goes on.

Thursday, June 2, 2016


Thank you to everyone who suggested, after my crankypants bitterface post about being frustrated that we've been waiting and on hold for so long, that a vacation would be a good idea. Something a little different from the norm, but still driving distance.

We are creatures of habit, though, so certain destinations have to be on the map.

We haven't seen Bryce's mom in a long time, so we are going to spend the middle of the week up there, with them, near Augusta, Maine.

BUT...on either end... a little familiarity and a little novelty.

We decided to go to a town outside of Boston on our way to Maine, so that we can take be only a few hours from our destination and spend some time somewhere relatively new, and save money by staying in a town where there's a train to Boston -- no parking woes and less expensive accommodations, yet easy access to the city's attractions.

WE'RE STAYING IN SALEM! I'm so excited. I have never been there, and it's such an interesting place steeped in history, albeit some shameful early American history. It's supposed to be one of the most haunted places in the U.S., which I have conflicting feelings about. BUT, what a cool place to stay!

Then, we're going to take the train into Boston and walk to the Aquarium, where I haven't been since a high school band/orchestra trip. They did have that giant layered cylindrical tank then, and the sea turtle is burned in my brain. I also read The Soul of an Octopus over winter break, and have a new appreciation for those creatures. There are apparently interesting ones at the Aquarium. Once upon a time I wanted to be a marine biologist, and I still love sea critters.

We'll spend the day in Boston and then head on back to Salem either before or after dinner, and then the next morning after breakfast we'll head up to Portland. For as often as I've been to Maine since meeting Bryce, I've NEVER stopped in Portland. We always go further north, occasionally stopping in Freeport on the way up but not Portland. So, we're going to spend the midday there, go for a hike, have a nice lunch with a friend, and then off to Bryce's mom's house for dinner and a stay of a few days.

Bryce's mom's house in the summer is like living in a botanical garden. It's gorgeous, and they have generously offered to have their fifth wheel camper hooked up for water so we can use the toilet/brush teeth at night and stay out there, which is lovely because while we love their home it gets HOT upstairs and the bed isn't quite long enough for my 6'3" tall husband. So we'll get the best of both worlds -- lots of visiting, but privacy at night. We'll probably go to the Maine Coast Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, and maybe a trip up to Damariscotta so we can go to the Maine Coast Bookshop. Maybe we'll go into Camden. There's a farm nearby that Bryce's mom has been dying to take us to, too, so maybe that will be in the plans. Lots of good eating, walking, and woods and/or ocean air. Ahhhh.

Then, we leave for our favorite romantic getaway, Grafton Vermont. It's weird going there in the summer, since we usually love the winter fun (snowtubing! snowshoeing! fireplaces! sleigh rides we've never gone on but look and sound great! snowball fights by the frozen creek! warming up with wine and delicious food at the end of the day!), but there's good stuff in summer, too. It is air conditioned even though the buildings are historic, and there's a swimming hole. I have conflicted feelings about the swimming hole too though, because it seems like a haven for snapping turtles that want to bite your toes off and/or a great place for some skeletal hands to reach up out of the depths and snag your ankles, because whatever's down there wants company in the murky deep. It also looks refreshing, and we've seen it in the winter when it's drained so we know there's nothing creepy down there. When it's empty, at least.

We'll hike and eat yummy food and drink yummy wine and go into Chester, which independent bookshop! This one is smaller than others in the area, but the collection is gorgeous. It's the Misty Valley Bookshop, and in addition to great books, they have the most beautiful letterpress notes. I love me a handwritten note.

We'll also go into Manchester, Vermont and go to the Northshire Book Store, which is one of my favorite places in the world. I could spend hours there. We don't have independent bookstores in Rochester. There's one in Brockport, but that's 35 minutes from me. I've enjoyed going there once so far, but it's such a novelty to go to a beautifully curated, independent bookshop. I already have quite the stack of books for summer reading, and so I shouldn't get more, but who can say no to more books? Plus supporting authors through actual bookshops. So many reasons to love.

Finally, back home, after 10 days of New England exploring -- both new haunts and familiar ones. If we get a call and have to cancel, well then hopefully we have a baby. If we don't get a call and it's life as per usual (our new normal), well then, we've had a gorgeous, relaxing, somewhat adventurous vacation together, with a mix of family and romantic alone time in new settings. That sounds pretty good to me.

Note: Always, always ask... both hotels put notes in to waive any cancellation fee or loss of deposit if we have to cancel due to adoption-related events. Also at one I asked about a teacher discount and while they don't have one, JUST FOR ASKING I got 10% off our stay.