Monday, September 26, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: A Reason I'd Be A Good Mom

I'd like to think that there are a zillion reasons why I'd make a great mom.

But in the past week something came up that made me really, really mourn the mom I'm not (yet).

A friend of mine at school told me about her daughter, who is a new kindergartner. She loves school, but she is very, very anxious. They just did the fire drills, and immediately she was worried about fires. "Why do we have to practice for a fire if there isn't a good chance that there WILL BE a fire?" She was worried about starting kindergarten, because she rapidly leapt ahead into the future... "If I go to kindergarten that means I'm growing up, and if I'm growing up then I'll have to move out one day and go to college and I DON'T WANT TO LEAVE YOU YET!"

I admire her forward thinking, and I can relate to the worst-case-scenario thinking patterns.


She was worrying herself into a tizzy.

I immediately thought of a Kevin Henkes book, Wemberly Worried. Wemberly is worried about everything -- the cracks in the wall (what if they get bigger and the house falls down or something scary comes out of it?), checking to make sure her parents still exist at night after she's gone to bed, worrying about her stuffed rabbit when it's in the wash. Wemberly reminded me of my friend's daughter, and I thought maybe the book would be comforting--because at the end she finds a friend at school who also worries and she discovers that she can worry just enough but not too much.

So I bought it online and when it came in I put it on her desk with a note to review it and let me know if she thought it would be helpful or just cause new worries she hadn't thought of yet (you just never know).

My friend came to me later in the day when I saw her for the first time and she had tears in her eyes...the book was PERFECT. Her daughter actually shares some of those fears about the cracks in the walls and the parents disappearing and whatnot.

It made me so happy, because finding the right book for the right child is something I enjoy, and picture books can be healing.

But it also made me so sad, because I have a room upstairs that is absolutely full of beautiful picture books and board books, and a room downstairs that has all my natural history type picture books, and I have no one to enjoy them one to share them one who can learn from them and relate to them and feel better because a book understood them.

Someday I hope that I can find just the right book for my child, and show them all the ways that reading can be entertaining and educational and emotionally nurturing.


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

Monday, September 19, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: Auditory Memory

I picked up my violin over the weekend. It's been months and months since I've played, which is part of a vicious cycle where I say to myself, "Argh, it's been so long since I've played, my pegs are going to be all stiff and out of whack and it's going to sound terrible." And then once I finally do pick it up, it takes all of 5 minutes to wrestle with ornery pegs and all of 10 minutes to warm back up and get my finger muscle memory going, and I always think, "Why don't I do this more often?"

It's a mystery of time, and how it slips through my fingers, why I don't do this more often.

But, on Saturday evening I picked it up and played a few pieces -- "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" (a great warm-the-fingers-and-tone-back-up Bach piece), Some short Handel pieces, and the first violin part to the Double Concerto for Two Violins by Bach (I really, really like playing Bach), which could have gone better but was okay, all things considered.

And then the next piece on my stand was a hymn, "In The Garden."

The last time I played this in public was my grandmother's funeral. I cannot play this piece and NOT see my grandmother, and NOT feel the loss that is her absence. It sounds like something you would hear on the sinking Titanic. It's beautiful, and haunting, and never fails to make me cry.

Auditory memory is like that. Songs somehow tie themselves inexorably to a particular moment in your life and it's hard if not impossible to separate them out.

"In the Garden," "Be Thou My Vision," and "Amazing Grace" are always tied to my Grandma Rosemary. "Amazing Grace" is actually also tied to my grandfather who died of cancer years ago, so that's a double whammy. Rare that I can play or hear that one without dissolving into tears.

The Elvis Christmas album "If Every Day Was Like Christmas" will always, always remind me of December 17th, 2006, when I was innocently baking Christmas cookies when a friend shared with me the devastating (at the time) news that my husband (at the time) had been cheating on me quite voraciously with not one but two people. Luckily, that day is also what I look back on as my Independence Day, and so Elvis holiday tunes are not ruined for me. But when I hear it for the first time in the season, I always am transported back to that day, and I feel the wrenching loss the old me felt in that moment, and the freedom to live a gorgeously different life that the new me knows now was given at the very same time.

"The Dog Days Are Over" by Florence + The Machine will always, always remind me of a day years ago where I got the call that I was not pregnant, AGAIN, and my IVF tally was far more failure than success of any kind. Bryce had to work for several hours more and so a friend came over to drink with me and console me until he took over and she put that song on as an anthem that things would get better. I can't hear it without hearing my tipsy, devastated voice wail, "But what if my dog days are JUST BEGINNING? What if it NEVER gets better?" Cue the champagne in cans and sense of deja vu for the next couple of years.

"Rings" by Leo Kottke is a song that I will probably never hear randomly in public, but I put it into our home music library player fairly regularly. It's my wedding song with Bryce and we love it even though Leo Kottke himself said in a concert that we went to here in town that although people tend to use it as a wedding song, in his opinion it is the WORST wedding song ever. We love it because it's ours, and it's quirky and a little messy around the edges and that works for us. I remember dancing in our living room, cleared of furniture because it was raining on Halloween 2009, and getting dipped when I wasn't ready and nearly dumping it, and laughing it off with more champagne and the glow of a moment that was beautiful and not well choreographed and it still makes me so, so happy, all these nearly 7 years later, because it was perfect and imperfect all at once, joyous and yet I nearly fell on my ass, and doesn't that just tell the most beautiful love story? He caught me, and I didn't actually fall all the way, and we held each other up as we laughed and laughed. It's pretty much how we live our life today and survive all those messy moments that have been foisted upon us.

Kind of a weird video, but you get the idea of the song.

So what's a song that means something to you? Where does your auditory memory take you? 

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays, perhaps ones that are more micro than this poser? Go here and enjoy! 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Happy Blogoversary Tooooo Meeeeee

Anniversaries are weird. I started having this mini existential crisis yesterday because it's like birthdays -- the year I turned 40 was actually 41 years since I had been born, so this is my 6th blogoversary of this space but I actually started writing it seven years ago today.

Right? Sometimes my math in this area goes foggy (try not to be concerned that I reteach math on a regular basis at the 8th grade level), and becomes as murky as my spatial awareness. Which is terrible. You don't ever want me assembling ANYTHING.

I wrote my first post on this blog on September 18th, 2010. It was titled, "To share or not to share?" and was my manifesto for what I wanted this space to be. Then.

This was a time where I had just failed my first IVF, but was so, so hopeful that we would be successful. Subsequent posts were titled, "Sensitivity: A Sticky Wicket," "Gratitude," "Hope," "Letting Go of 'The Plan'" (that one CRACKS ME UP because it was a struggle all throughout infertility treatment and still haunts my line of thinking today), "Food for Thought," and "Just a Little Sad." I focused on what it felt like to be embarking on this journey and failing right from the outset, to how others could help me and other infertiles when trying to be supportive, to my decisions to look carefully at how I eat and my tupperware choices (I still have all glass) and whether or not any of that was helpful or necessary (um, good for me in general, but did bupkus in the fertility arena. For me, anyway.).

It's so interesting to go back and reacquaint myself with the person I was at the start...because I'm not that person anymore.

If I read my blog from beginning to present (which would be a pretty time-consuming process, as I've written 456 posts including this one), it would be like watching a strange evolution--I could see the moments where I realized that they way I envisioned my family life was just not not going to be reality, one step at a time. I could see where loss changed the way I see life. I could see how my writing has improved over time. I can also see where I stopped being a little bloggy island unto myself and started involving myself in community -- through Mel's Stirrup Queens and finding others to follow across their journey. The best thing I ever did was start branching out and letting go of the idea that I could only really understand people who have the SAME story as me. That reading about others with different pathways and different experiences in this realm would open up a world of perspectives, of friendships that are solely cultivated over the internet but incredibly special to me. It widened my own empathy.

It's been hard, for sure, to have six years of writing about my infertility journey under my belt and have it shift from IVF to donor egg IVF to donor sperm IVF to adoption, and STILL not be successful with having a family of more than two. It's been hard to feel perennially left behind, watching people get pregnant or adopt babies/children or come to a resolution that they will live a different life than originally envisioned and live childfree, albeit NOT by choice. I seriously never thought that we'd be here, unresolved and still in a pattern of hope and uncertainty, so many years later.

In a way, though, it is a gift. I can look back on all those posts, and see what this experience has done for me. It's caused a lot of grief. It's caused a lot of anger. It's even caused some isolation. But, it's made me more connected, more empathetic, more open to other perspectives, and it's spawned a space where I can write about all of these things.

This space is sacred to me. It's saved me in my darkest moments. It's reminded me that no matter how sad sap I feel and lonely I feel in my situation, that there's always someone out there who will give me a virtual hug, who "gets it." And that you don't have to have lived that particular story to "get it," which is the best lesson I learned through reading others' blogs. It's also lovely to look back on this blog as a continuous love letter to my husband. So many posts are dedicated to how lucky I am to travel this particular road with him by my side. Sometimes the posts are my perspective only, but Bryce is always there, if not in the actual post then as my biggest supporter, listening as I read EVERY SINGLE ONE to him after they're up and out in the ether. He doesn't always comment, he doesn't always make an appearance, but he's always, ALWAYS there.

I am so grateful to everyone who reads this space, who comments, whose lives I have a window into through their own blog spaces. I am celebrating my own little corner of the internet with this blogoversary, but I'm also celebrating the community I'd never have had if I hadn't started this blog in 2010. The friends I've met. The joyous moments, and the heartbreaks we've shared. The web of support that I feel with every comment.

It's not been an easy ride, but it's far from over. I thank you so much for joining me over the years, and hope that this blog continues to evolve as we see what the future has in store for us, as we continue to wait for Mystery Baby to make him-or-herself known.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Personhood, Choice, and Embryo Adoption

I have this problem...which seems at first a semantic one but is actually way, WAY more than that.

We have placed our embryos for adoption, a process that officially ended the transit phase last week (so really, I shouldn't call them "ours" anymore). Many people cringe at the term "embryo adoption." There is a split with people in terms of calling this process embryo adoption versus embryo donation, and the split occurs down the line of Personhood.

Personhood is the belief that life begins at conception, and that this life should be given the legal, ethical, and moral protections under the law as any other fully formed human. According to the organization Personhood USA, the Personhood movement is defined as "a movement working to respect the God-given right to life by recognizing all human beings as persons who are 'created in the image of God' from the beginning of their biological development, without exceptions." Basically, once fertilization occurs, what you have is a human being with rights. Many states have introduced Personhood legislation, and all attempts, except laws in Kansas and Missouri (which fall under the umbrella of the US Constitution which does not ban abortion because Roe v. Wade is in place) have been voted down.

One goal of Personhood is that abortion would be criminalized, however it has other consequences as well. If a fertilized egg is a person with full legal rights and protections, then certain contraceptive options (the ones that prevent a fertilized egg from implanting) would be banned, IVF would be banned (who wants to take control of a lab full of "people" with legal rights? If an embryo fails to grow is the clinic liable for its "murder?" If, like in legislation introduced in Georgia, miscarriage is treated as a murder, what about failed cycles and miscarriages resulting from IVF?), embryonic stem cell research would be banned, and so on.

This is where things get sticky. I am not a fan of Personhood, globally applied. I fall under the category of Pro Choice. It doesn't mean I love the idea of abortions. It means that I feel that those are very personal decisions that should be made between a woman and her healthcare provider. Because I am Pro Choice, I am not behind Personhood. Personhood limits women's bodies and makes them a legal entity. While IVF did not work for me, I was glad it was an option. Under Personhood it would not be. Under Personhood I would be the perpetrator of 27 tiny deaths, the result of failed cycles and my two more palpable losses.

But, we have these embryos, and the option that was most appealing to us was the Snowflakes program of Nightlight Christian Adoptions, a program that is steeped in Personhood, refers to the embryos as "pre-born children" and has adopting parents do a homestudy as if they are adopting a fully-formed child. The reality is, the actual contract for an embryo adoption falls under property law. Embryos are considered personal property and not potential children available for adoption because... Personhood is not a thing supported by the law.

How can I be against Personhood and for Snowflakes? Why am I willing to call it Embryo Adoption and not Donation? In my mind, donation is anonymous. It is a giving away without any expectation of information. It is an option that was available to us, but we wanted to know. Adoption is an agreement between two families to transfer the parenthood of these potential children from one couple to another, with the expectation of contact (for us, letters and pictures until 18 at a minimum), and the ability to know what happened and to choose the family the embryos go to. Maybe the two are truly synonymous, but Embryo Adoption brings up in people undeniable connections to Personhood -- you can't adopt something that's not a person (rescue animals and sections of highway are so NOT the same thing), so if embryos are adopted, they must be people, and what a slippery slope that is.

For us, we believe that THESE SPECIFIC embryos are potential children, children we personally couldn't bring into being. Because I have the glories of choice, I can choose to consider these embryos potential life without designating ALL embryos in that way. For me, each embryo that didn't become a pregnancy was a loss, a tiny death of potential. But that doesn't mean that I need EVERYONE to feel that way. I would feel differently if I hadn't carefully created these embryos on purpose, out of love and an overwhelming desire for family, embryos that were certainly wanted. I can believe that my embryos are potential children but not think a woman choosing abortion is committing murder. It's her choice. It is ending a potential, I don't think you I can separate that out, because if development was allowed to continue there would feasibly be a baby at the end. But I absolutely am behind another woman's right to choose that option if it is best for her.

This is why I had a difficult time initially with the contract for our embryo adoption. I felt like an idiot, because we had been sent a blank contract before we signed on and we had sort of skimmed it, and we missed two sets of verbiage that became problematic when it was time to sign. When we started the process with Snowflakes, I had a long conversation with an intake specialist, where I discussed my concerns with the Personhood aspect of the program, and that it is a very Christian organization and that we ourselves are not religious. I was told, "The Christian part of our name is about who WE are, not who our clients are. It says more about us than it does about you, and we respect your differences." WELL. It's not every day that happens, and I was really impressed with the openness that Snowflakes shared regarding their beliefs versus their clients' beliefs. That went a long way with both how we felt about going down this sticky road of Personhood-rife embryo adoption AND the fact that we preferred a couple that was on the more liberal side of religion if at all -- we wanted people who weren't fundamentally religious to raise "our" embryos. We felt like we wanted the children resulting from all this to believe that it's okay to be gay, that other beliefs are valuable and have something to teach, that evolution is a real thing, that being with other people who think differently than you is a good thing (I'm not saying that these things are exclusive from religion, just that many fundamentalist groups would not mesh well with our beliefs). And we were given that opportunity, no questions asked. I was super impressed with Snowflakes making good on their assertion that they would support our wishes even if they weren't necessarily in line with their own beliefs system.

But then we received the contract to review and sign, and it had this wording in it:

"The embryos are pre-born children who are endowed by God with unique characteristics and are entitled to the rights and protections accorded all children, legally and morally." 


"The parties believe that human life is created by God at the time of conception, whether in vivo or in vitro." 

Um, WHAT? I was a little taken aback, because I really didn't feel like either of these sentences had any legal merit to being in the contract, and were just a way to insert Personhood beliefs into the process. I wanted the entire second sentence gone, because it had no bearing on our decision to transfer ownership (relinquish parental rights) to the receiving (adopting) couple. We weren't going to sign something we didn't believe. I don't globally believe that, and the statement added nothing to the adoption agreement itself. The first one was trickier, because it was preceded by a sentence defining "the embryos" as "the embryos being transferred," and so I didn't mind some of the verbiage as it applied to THESE SPECIFIC EMBRYOS, but we wanted the legal piece out of there, the rights out of there, and the God part out of there.

I called Snowflakes, and went through everything with their contracts specialist. I am just continually impressed with how Snowflakes works with people who do not share their beliefs. It was kind of funny, because the specialist said that she knew we'd want to change some of the wording and expected my call but had to send the boilerplate contract over. She took the entire second sentence out, and whittled the first one down to something I was okay with. The term "pre-born children" was taken out here, but occurs elsewhere in the contract, and I was okay with that (especially since it refers to these SPECIFIC embryos), especially when it was explained that they wanted the contract to resemble an adoption contract rather than a property transfer contract, and so that's how they refer to the embryos. Potato, potahto.

I still feel like it is hard to explain how someone who will staunchly defend the right of other women to obtain abortions can put so much stock in tiny embryonic cell clusters. How even our 1-day embryos are being "adopted," and I mourned every failed cycle for the potential that was lost, the children I could envision but not bring into reality. It's a hard place to be, philosophically. My amazing therapist (who I've managed to FaceTime with since she moved away) wisely said, "I think that's the DEFINITION of choice." And it's true -- I can choose what's right for me, and someone else can choose what's right for them, and I am not forcing my beliefs on anyone else. I feel differently about things since going through our infertility journey, but it doesn't change my Pro-Choice stance. I am hoping to adopt, but I do not consider women who choose to have an abortion rather than go through a full-term pregnancy for the sake of adoption horribly selfish or see their abortions as potential babies that are lost to me. They are not actually related, in my mind. That would be like wanting to ban sex education and access to contraception so that there would be a greater pool of unplanned pregnancies that could result in a placement. It seems kind of loopy, to me anyway. I greatly appreciate the women who choose adoption for themselves, but also respect it as one (incredibly difficult) choice out of many (incredibly difficult) choices.

When we started our journey to have a family, I didn't realize how much I'd have to think on ethical issues relating to when life begins and the rights of embryos. I mean, we signed all the paperwork about what would happen to embryos if one or both of us died, and had hypothetical conversations, but as a couple who never had frozens at the beginning it seemed insane that we'd ever have "excess" embryos to worry about. But we did in the end, and I am ever so grateful that programs like Snowflakes exist. I am happy that OUR SPECIFIC embryos can find a home with another family, that they will get a chance to truly be, as to me they are little bundles of potential. I can't honestly say when I think life truly begins. I don't think that I personally could put a global statement out there and say definitively in every circumstance. I listened to an NPR program that had a salon-type discussion on abortion from half pro-choice people and half pro-life people, and it was a very, very respectful discussion involving listening on both sides. One woman's thoughts stuck with me. She said (paraphrased as my memory isn't quite THAT good), "We can't pretend it's not ending a life. Abortion is ending a life. It would have become something, and now it's not. Before I had a miscarriage, I pretended it wasn't a life, it was just a bundle of cells, nothing more. But then I couldn't have it both ways. I couldn't say for me it was life because I wanted it, and for someone else it wasn't. I can absolutely believe in a woman's right to choose and still acknowledge that abortion ends a life."

There is no easy conclusion to draw from all this. I loved the salon because it was people respectfully discussing a hot-button topic without getting nasty, and truly listening to all perspectives. I hope to have that same spirit in the comments here. If you disagree with me, I would absolutely love to hear your (respectful) thoughts. Embryo adoption is a beautiful choice, a way to give our embryos a chance to become people, to have a family, to get to experience this beautiful mess of life. But man, does it make you think on all the politics and ethical questions that wend their twisty way through all of the options in family building.

Monday, September 12, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: A New Tattoo

I've been mulling over a new tattoo.

I have my snake on my right inner ankle that's been with me for 16 years:

She's so pretty. Love her coloring and belly scales. 
I have a stupid monkey tattoo I got in 2002ish, literally a monkey on my back, which was obliterated and devoured by a big, black, powerful dragon in March of 2006. You can guess all the symbolism there, I bet...and why it's my favorite even though I love my snake. No picture, a little too lower back for public consumption.

And then, nothing. Because the spine-to-hip dragon sated my tattoo desires for more for a couple of years, and then we were in the thick of IVF and tattoos were verboten (too much bloodborne risk), I took a pause and thought, okay, maybe I'm done.


I had this idea, that originally was going to be the equation of entropy on my left inner wrist, because entropy is the concept that everything always reverts back to chaos...and then I just didn't like the equation enough to make that happen. The equation would be more a representation of Bryce than me and when I've gotten tattoos in the past that weren't powerful for me specifically, it's been a disaster.

So, I thought on the whole entropy thing, and how I can relate it to something more meaningful, and I've settled on this:

A dandelion (which, actually, for a gardener is a pretty great definition of entropy).

I want to put a botanical-illustration-style seeded dandelion head and stem and two leaves on my left shoulder blade, and then have the the blown puffball fluffies spread out and up my neck. I don't want them to turn into birds, as I've seen all over pinterest and image searches. I want 35 clearly delineated seed fluffies, one for each of the embryos we made, with two of them purple (and I'm thinking I am okay with them morphing into two butterflies, since they did transform into something more, briefly), and eight of them another color to denote the ones we sent away to another couple, in hopes that they'd become SOMETHING.

This way it honors ALL of our little potential children, all of those little starts that never finished that we created with such love. They were all our wishes. Even though not one came true for us, I want to commemorate them somehow and I think, since I've decorated my body a bit already, that this would be a beautiful way to do it.

What do you think? Do you have any meaningful body art? Have you seen a dandelion tattoo you like? 

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

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Sometimes, Walking in Cemeteries Has Consequences

Bryce and I love walking in old cemeteries. The history, the beauty of the stones and the epitaphs and the all combines to make for a multi-faceted walk.

We love cemeteries in Vermont:

Grafton Cemetery

Manchester cemetery

We love a local cemetery here in our city, Mount Hope. It's not only older stones and history (Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony are buried there!) but a beautiful park with walkways through a crazy hilly landscape carved by ancient glaciers:

Mount Hope in Rochester
So yesterday, we set out for a new cemetery, one we'd never walked around. It's Holy Sepulchre Cemetery. It also, on the Genesee River side, borders Riverside Cemetery.

It was not the same kind of walk.

On the non-river side, we walked around, deciding that we would set our path by choosing an interesting stone in the distance and then set out to get to it, and alternate between the two of us. Which worked out great. We even saw an unusual sight...There was a car that was stopped and then moving very, very slowly and we couldn't figure out why, and then we looked left:

Tried to darken it but it's still super light and hazy thanks to the weather.. but do you see the FOUR surprises? And a PIEBALD!

And then our walk took us down a path to the right, where we found a section entirely made of small stones, some short, rectangular stones with the epitaphs on the top, and some with weathered lambs. Oh...lambs. If ever you see a headstone, a small one, with a little lamb on top, it's a child. And this ENTIRE was all children. Two. Three. Ten. Five. Lots of Fives. Bryce wondered why you would bury your child separate from you, but then here was a whole section dedicated to lives cut too short.

You would think that would be somber enough, but no.

We walked along that section and came across a smaller one, near the border fence at the back. It was labeled "Guardian Angels." There were all kinds of things along the stones, most of which were the kind that lie flush with the ground. And the dates were largely singular. A birth and death date all in one.

We saw stones for babies born too soon, who never took a breath, who lived for hours, who lived a few days. That was the oldest stone I saw...a few days.

There were teddy bears and toy trucks and one bright yellow baseball.

We stopped walking.

We just stood and read the stones and looked at all those objects, the things that weren't flowers or pinwheels but tangible potential. And we cried.

I mean, how could you not?

The baseball was the thing that stood out the most. A baby doesn't play with a baseball, but the child that baby was supposed to grow into would have. It sat there, laden with all the potential that was lost on the day the child was born and ceased to be, all at once.

We felt our own compounded losses then, the loss of the pregnancies we thought might become children but only lasted weeks, and just a couple at that. The loss of all the many embryos that held the potential for so much more, for parenthood and life beyond cellular division. These losses were just so tangible, and ours are so conceptual. We have our little star, and our little Buddha statue, but someone could come into our house and not know what those really stand for. They are for us, not for the annals of time. The only evidence that they existed at all is this space and a drawer full of bendy-cornered, fuzzy black and white pictures at various stages of development.

But we also felt deeply the losses of all these people, who were clearly taking very good care of these tiny graves, where the tiny items laid next to the stones weren't weatherworn at all and could have been placed there yesterday. People who thought that they were going home with a baby and didn't. People who endured the kind of unimaginable loss that so many people don't ever have to think about...loss that changes you forever.

We talked about that section for the rest of our walk, about potential and loss of potential and how we lost 27 tiny chances at having the pregnancy experience that ends with a baby, with two of those making it just a bit further than the rest. About how we have this tremendous potential to be parents, but that in this space of waiting and waiting and NOT having a pregnancy, a physical reminder that we are actually going to have a baby sleeping and playing in the nursery that is slightly dusty and enjoyed mostly by feels just so far away. It feels a little removed, because in adoption, you complete all the paperwork, you take all the classes, and wait. And wait and wait and wait and wait and wait. There's been events lately that we wanted to go to (a waiting adoptive parents ice cream social thing, the picnic) but that fell on dates that didn't work or were hard for other reasons (our homestudy update visit, the weekend before Bryce's GREs, things located over an hour away when we both work, blasted celiac food concerns). It's hard to feel super connected to the process in a way that feels real, all the time, like we are truly expecting, in part because we'd hoped to receive more profile opportunities by now (although all we need is that one right one), and in part because that's just how this process goes. Hurry up and wait.

For some reason, that very colorful, very sad section of the cemetery brought these things up to the forefront and made them REAL. It made us realize that we also have potential, some that has been lost forever (I'm never going to experience pregnancy, we're never going to have a genetic link to our baby, we'll never have another shot at those embryos that came and went), and some that is here, with us -- amorphous and swirly in the ether but here. We ARE expecting. We have a room filled with potential that has yet to be fulfilled -- all the onesies, some of which I've had for years as symbols of hope and an attempt to "manifest" a baby through our sincerity (nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see!), the board books and picture books and tiny rattling toys and blankets and everything else that shows we have hope for a tiny human that just hasn't arrived yet.

The operative word is...yet.

It was a sad walk in some ways -- especially as we moved to the river side and went over to the neighboring cemetery, aptly named Riverside Cemetery, which was VERY ACTIVE (fresh graves, graves waiting to be filled presumably at a funeral on Sunday, a girl visiting her mother's grave and hugging it while her father looked on, and some kind of balloon release ceremony that was a little confusing as everyone was dressed in primary colors and there were many children and it was incredibly joyous sounding... so maybe an annual thing for an anniversary of one person's death, or, as the section looked very colorful as well, maybe it was for lost children? THAT would have been just too coincidental). I said that we should stick to the more historical cemeteries, the ones where you feel like you're visiting graves no one has visited in a century or more, where this idea of mortality is a bit more removed, more implicit than explicit. But, as Bryce said over dinner later, "Maybe it's the walk we were meant to take today." Which was odd, because Bryce never says things like "meant to." We are not "everything happens for a reason" people, but it did seem like this particular walk in this particular cemetery allowed us to explore our own grief together, our own loss of potential, our lack of a stationary sort of public monument to it, but also the potential that we still hold even though it feels so very far away. It brought all that close to us, in a moment we experienced AT THE SAME TIME, which doesn't happen often anymore. It deepened our conversations about our own long and arduous quest for parenthood, one that we never ever imagined would still be incomplete and conceptual only, seven years later.

It was not an easy walk, but it was the walk that we needed to take. Which is like so many things in life, right? Necessary, and challenging, and not at all easy.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Back in the Swing of the School Thing

This week has been a blur. The first day of school for teachers was Tuesday, and then from there it just became this runaway train of getting back to routines I've not had for ten weeks. I feel lucky that I didn't have crazy nightmares about school this week, and that I didn't have that panicky feeling of "OHMYGOD, I've totally forgotten how to teach...what happens if I get up there and I blank out???" This was a real thing last year before school (don't worry, I didn't really forget).

It didn't help that it was freaking hot, as in 90 and a zillion percent humidity, and my school (like so many others in Western New York) HAS NO AIR CONDITIONING. It was as sticky and funky as I thought it might be, and I am hoping that the forecast of dropping into the 70s this week is true. I can't take any more. And Friday I was pretty sure that a fair amount of funk was coming from me, despite twice a day showering. Not a good feeling.

It was an interesting week, with people asking about adoption updates and me feeling ever so slightly less optimistic than last year, although I do a good job of playing up the little play we got this summer. I just sound less like "Could be ANY DAY now!" and more like, "Well, IF it happens this year."

I also had to call my parents (I mean my students' parents), which is a good idea anyway to open up the door of communication and introduce yourself. My resource period is 9th, and for the past two years no parents have stayed that late at open house. The traffic getting out when everyone lets out is UNBELIEVABLE, so sometimes they jet out (most of the time they have met me in the consultant teacher English class anyway, but then they miss my own spiel), I don't really blame them. 9:20 is LATE. So, I decided this year that I would call and then introduce my strange situation... that Bryce and I are adopting (SO many "Congratulations!") but that the baby is utterly hypothetical and the process is chock full of uncertainty (SO many awkward silences), so I want to give them the heads up that I could, feasibly, go out on maternity leave with as little notice as a couple weeks, or I could have several months' notice, or it could not happen this year at all. There is a transition plan (sort of...since we can't exactly keep someone on hold for a possible maternity leave that could be years in the making) and the principal is super supportive and I will do everything possible to get someone up to speed to take my place if that happened this year. Then I laughed my dark laugh and said, "Of course, I had this same exact conversation with my parents last year, and ABSOLUTELY NOTHING happened, so maybe it won't affect your child at all." In retrospect, that's probably not so soothing, because I could hear the wheels turning (oh...she's in her second year of's MORE likely to happen this year than last). But, in most cases the conversation went smoothly and everyone appreciated the early contact. It was just exhausting. Necessary though, because in the English class we wrote our letters as teachers to model the letter that we want our students to write -- to get their story. They aren't sanitized. By the end, students know my parents divorced, I divorced, teaching wasn't my first career, and we're having a baby...through adoption. (Hilarious to see how many students look up at my stomach when I say "and someday hopefully soon...a baby!" and then rethink it when I say we're in the adoption process. Fascinating that the number one question I get is about where the baby will come from.) The more honest we are in our letters, the more free they feel to share their true stories with us -- which often include things like tragic parent loss, divorce situations, anxiety/depression, struggles with sexual orientation/identity, and hard transitions from moving a lot. I love reading these letters, it reminds me of the whole child we're trying to teach. They reveal so much that lies beneath the surface.

This week was one of other reveals, too... two pregnancies (both second) and two adoption matches. It felt a little like, YOU get a baby, and YOU get a baby, and YOU get a baby, and YOU GET A BABY, but uh, NO BABY FOR YOU! Like being the only one in Oprah's studio to NOT get a car. It's funny, being in a place where I'm watching not only pregnancies happen around me but successful adoptions, too. I didn't cry or get super funked or anything like that, because that's just WHAT IS now. Happiness for others, and a little numbness for myself.

Facebook was a little tough this week and I stayed off it for the most part because every time I went to see what was happening, it was a sea of back to school pictures. Which have never really bothered me in the past, but it's that whole passage-of-time thing. It's hearing/reading about parents choking up about that first bus ride, and being that ever going to be me? It's seeing comment after comment of "time moves so fast!" and feeling like, DOES IT EVER. And yet, some of these children going off to kindergarten were conceived when we were also trying, and here we are...with our cats. Nothing has changed in any real way, despite the pack-n-play and car seats in the back storage room.

Today I asked Bryce what we were going to do for our wedding anniversary this year -- it's number seven, and I'd kind of like to do something to commemorate it, since while it is tied to our infertility journey longevity, I find it necessary to celebrate the GOOD things in our lives. That we don't want to stab each other (all the time, ha) after seven years of dealing with incredibly difficult situations is pretty special. The funny thing is, Bryce asked, "Well, what did we do last year?"

You know what we did last year? WE HAD A BABY SHOWER. Time just keeps moving on, and everything stays the same. He snorted a bit, because while it's as funny as it is not funny.

I want to go away somewhere for a weekend, to have a romantic fall thing. I'm not sure if that's feasible given his PhD course schedule, but I'd like to try. It would be lovely to have something to look forward to. If that's not possible we'll figure something else out, maybe a staycation or a night in a local hotel where we can pretend we're elsewhere.

In the meantime, I've had a wonderful week with my new students, and it's been good to get back in the swing of teaching. Such a strange career, where you are so immersed for 10 months of the year and then have 2 months where you are removed (okay, one month, since August is essentially get-ready-time), and then have to transition back. Every year on the same cycle. It's nice, though, because every year the kids change, the climate changes, I get to reinvent what I do in those several-week increments that I teach important skills and how to be a decent human. So it's predictable, but changes, too. I am forever in 8th grade, and that I don't mind at all.

I will feel better when school is really up and going and open house is over (man I hate Open House... talking in front of adults, a growing number of whom are my age or younger, make me tremble a bit), and I'm solidly in the routine. I love, love, love being in the classroom again, helping kids to learn and grow during one of the most awkward times in their lives. I can concentrate on the good things...our anniversary, my love of teaching...and maybe that will help me feel more hope than numbness in this limbo we live in. Even though it feels that way more often than not right now, it won't last forever.

Monday, September 5, 2016

#Microblog Monday: This Is the Story You Get

The other day, when I was putting together my beautiful (and incredibly time-consuming) Reader's Notebooks for this school year, I decided to watch a movie.

The movie was Room. Yeah, I know, given the week I had last week, it seems like a bit of a downer...but I sort of felt it was like Cormac McCarthy's The Road. You can see it as horribly depressing, or you can see it as having an ultimate message of hope and resilience.

There's a scene in Room (not a spoiler, don't worry) where the main character, Joy, who has been locked up in a sexual predator's back garden shed for seven years, is explaining the real story of how she got there, not the fairy tale version that she's previously told her son who's now five. She explains that he was too little to understand before, but now he can get it, and she needs him to understand so that they have hope for escape.

In the middle of the story, as she's explaining how she was tricked, he gets very upset at having his carefully constructed world turned upside down, and he screams, "I WANT A DIFFERENT STORY!"

And then she yells right back,

"There isn't a different story. THIS IS THE STORY YOU GET!"

And that right there is how I feel about my story, about my seven years of trying to get to parenthood and all the twists and turns and inexplicable tragedies small and large and the huge pit of loss that lurks beneath the surface for me, always, and taints the way I view life. This is how I feel when hearing about my reality, shared as bluntly and as casually as someone might tell a birth story or share a creepy 3-D ultrasound, makes people "uncomfortable."

This is the story I got. And so, this is the story you get, because it's the one I have to tell -- the beautiful parts like my marriage and all the other parts of my life with Bryce and school, but the really, really sad parts that I never imagined, too. Sometimes I own it like the mom in Room, and sometimes I want to put my head in the sand and and insist on a different story like the little boy. I had a fairy tale in my mind of how life was supposed to be, and some parts of my life exceeded expectations: a caring, supportive, loving husband; delicious dinners we cook together; long chatty hikes; a beautiful home; a fulfilling career... and other parts make up a story I never thought would be mine but intractably is: years of injections and surgeries and cycles of hope and despair; losses and periods of feeling utterly broken; a long, exhausting adoption process; letting go of the only things we've been "parents" to in sending our embryos off to a clinic in Texas, embryos we couldn't transfer ourselves; seven years of trying to be parents and failing miserably (so far). It's not a story I imagined possible when we said our vows seven years ago this October, all aglow with evening light and the hope for a beautiful future and a family we'd have to work a bit for, but that would come because it had to, that's the standard narrative.

But this is the real story. And I'm going to tell it, even if it makes people uncomfortable, even if it doesn't support the myth that hard work and belief can gain you ANYTHING YOU WANT. Maybe in telling this story, the fairy-tale-shattering story, it will help in accepting the hard truth that what you want and what you get are two different things, and that you can make the most of it but it's okay to be upset and bewildered by the story you got, and share that so that you can find other people who understand what it's like to live in that particular reality.

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

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Grief Quotes I Keep Handy

I went to lunch with a good friend the other day, and we got to talking about grief. She lost her mother in June, and that loss just bubbles up all the time, triggered by things tiny and obvious alike. She kept saying, "as you know," which made me uncomfortable until I said, "Well, but my losses were for people that didn't get to be, not people who existed tangibly in my life." (Of course with the exception of my grandmother.) And then she told me that she thought I absolutely was an expert in grief. Maybe not the same kind of loss, but I have some authority in the grief department.

Which was interesting to me, because I felt like I was doing that comparative thing again where we say one love is more than another or one kind of loss is more than another, and it was me feeling like I can't begin to comprehend a loss so great as my friend had sustained, and yet here she was, raw from the loss of her mother, telling me that I am sort of a grief guru.

I guess I have had lots of opportunities to cycle through the messiness of grief, and I am in a constant state of underlying grief, so that's true in a way. It's not an expertise I really wanted, but I guess I have to make the most of it. I don't think we deal well with grief as a whole in this country, it's always pushed down and expected to be over instead of something that lurks beneath the surface, ready to bubble up and take over like sad boiling lava at any given time.

I thought about how I collect quotes that stand out to me from books I read and keep them in a readily-accessible list on my phone, and how most of them deal guessed it...grief.

Here are a few of my favorites. If I'm a so-called expert, I feel I can share some of this collected wisdom with you:

"And endings are always the beginnings of something else."  - Holly Goldberg Sloan, Counting by Sevens

"All reality, I decide, is a blender where hopes and dreams are mixed with grief and despair. Only in cartoons and fairy tales and greeting cards do endings have glitter."    - Holly Goldberg Sloan, Counting by Sevens

"Maybe that happens when you've been through a lot. All your edges are worn off, like sea glass. Either that, or you shatter." - Holly Goldberg Sloan, Counting by Sevens (Seriously, if you haven't read Counting by Sevens, go get a copy. It's amazing.)

"Happy was my adopted country, not my native land. I was still bracing to be expelled without warning." - Kimberly McCreigh, Where They Found Her

"Sorrow and loss are constant, but if we had to go through our whole lives carrying them the whole time, we wouldn't be able to stand it. The sadness would paralyze us. So in the end we just pack it into bags and find somewhere to leave it." - Fredrik Backman, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry (This is another book to get your hands on if you can. Just so special.)

"Hope is a horrible thing, you know. I don't know who decided to package hope as a virtue because it's not. It's a plague. Hope is like walking around with a fishhook in your mouth and someone just keeps pulling it and pulling it." -- Ann Patchett, State of Wonder

You may disagree with me on that last one, but I have very complicated feelings about hope. So it goes in this category, because when you deal with grief on a regular basis it seems (to me) that hope is more of a plague than a virtue.

I swear I don't only read books about tragedies or loss or sadness, but those are the quotes that stand out to me. There were a scant handful of others not similarly themed, but mostly I seek things that validate my feelings on the hand I've been dealt. Maybe these quotes could be helpful to others, too, going through any other kind of grieving process.