Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Traumatizing My Uterus Instead of the Other Way Around

My hysteroscopy consult was interesting. I'm still bleeding, steadily although not heavily, and I am slowly going crazy as a result. A couple of weeks would have been annoying but manageable, but 5+ months? This is so not okay. 

The specialist doesn't think I have the kind of polyps that would cause bleeding, because my uterus is too small on an ultrasound and my polyps of yesteryore are more cervical-y ones, even though they were on the uterus side, and they are a different beast. 

It was recommended that I have the hysteroscopy, but that I also do an endomyometrial resection to fix my woes. Basically, that means removing my lining and the very top layer of muscle to ensure the "root" of the lining is gone. Doesn't that sound pleasant? The pictures on the website look like a fancy medical vegetable peeler is shaving off the entire inside of my uterus. Thank goodness I'll be out for it. 

If I have polyps this will remove them, if I have fibroids this will remove them, and it will prevent both from recurring. It will give me a pretty good chance of being done with my periods forever, without having to lose my whole organ. 

Not going to lie, it does sound a bit extreme and barbaric, even though the process is very high tech and designed with safety and best possible outcomes in mind, and it was invented by the same specialist who will do it next Wednesday on me. 

Positive: I won't have to mess with my hormones again. I can stop the Depo Provera, I don't have to do anything to meddle in my natural (dysfunctional) hormonal state. 


Positive: Most women manage to avoid hysterectomy as a result of this procedure.

Negative: While it's not removing my organ, it has the same effect because it basically renders my uterus completely nonfunctional, reproductively. 

This is the one that is causing me some angst. I am hideously infertile, and my chances of a "miracle" pregnancy are about a hundredth of a percent, between the shitty lining and one tube and flighty ovulation and low sperm values. I am on birth control to try to control my cycles (that part's failing mightily) but also to give me peace of mind, to know that I really can't get pregnant...even though that's fairly obvious after so many high-tech attempts that failed. I don't want to live in shady possibility. I don't want to pee on sticks that will always have one line. I don't want to worry about miscarrying because I have all that scarring or because my body just doesn't know how to do this procreation thing. 

But it's one thing to control that aspect and another to destroy it. I will have ZERO chance of getting pregnant, because I am effectively destroying the part of my uterus that makes that possible. 

Even though no pregnancy has been reality for a long(ish) time, the FINALITY of removing my lining is sobering. And a bit depressing. 

I am conflicted. When discussing options (limited since I don't apparently respond to hormonal stuff unless it's estrogen based, and I can't do that because of the whole prothrombin mutation thing) with the specialist, I started to tear up and basically said, "You know, I am not attached to my uterus as a reproductive entity. I just want this freaking bleeding to stop." Cue slow leak waterworks. I don't want to ruin my reproductive system, but in a way it's already ruined. 

My poor uterus. Poked and prodded and reluctant to make nice plush linings, and then scarred up and peeled piecemeal in hysteroscopy "lining refreshings" and endometrial biopsies. Never to carry a baby for more than a couple of weeks. Never to do anything but cause me pain and consternation. But does it deserve to be mutilated? Because that's what this feels like, to an extent. Safely, medically, expertly mutilated, but shaved down to the muscle nonetheless. As the specialist said, "Basically we're going to give you Asherman's on purpose." Well awesome, I'm already at least 1/3 of the way there! 

The endomyometrial resection is NOT ablation. There's no burning of the lining. It's literally removed. Another positive to that is that they send all of the material to a pathology lab, so if there's something in there that wasn't visible, it will be found. But a negative is that my uterus is also going to look like Freddy Krueger's face, all the way instead of partially

The risks are that some of the lining grows back and I get blood trapped in the nooks and crannies of the scarring, with no way to escape. The uterus tries to expel it anyway, and so you get really, really awful cramps until it's removed. That's somewhat rare though, but not super rare -- the rate's 10%. 

So I am scheduled for next week, first to go in and get this crazy thing called a laminara inserted into my cervix. It's a matchstick-sized roll of seaweed, that slowly expands overnight and dilates the cervix so that the instruments can get in there. Which is especially necessary because I've never had a vaginal (or any other kind of) birth, so my cervix is all locked up. This is the second time I've heard this in a few weeks. How awesome. Apparently this dilation is super crampy and can be more uncomfortable than recovery from the actual procedure...so you know, something to look forward to. 

The good news is that they will sedate me for that even though it only takes 3 minutes (take THAT, doctor who wouldn't get me Valium for the SSG/endometrial biopsy!), and then I'm out for the hysteroscopy/resection. Supposedly recovery is 36-48 hours, and this is on Wednesday, so I guess I'm out the rest of the week. I could do the seaweed thing after school on Tuesday, but Wednesday had to be during the day. Although I guess I could teach in the morning...Hmmm. Maybe I'll do that, since I'm teaching The Outsiders and I really enjoy it...I don't want to miss anything. Oh, wait, I'm being sedated Tuesday afternoon. That might not work out. Shoot. 

Anyway, I feel like it's a little extreme, but maybe not. I've run out of options. The specialist said if Depo wasn't working to regulate me, then the IUD that was recommended wouldn't, either. If this doesn't work then I am looking at a subtotal hysterectomy, but I'm not there yet. I did have a  daydream a few weeks ago where I was having a hysterectomy and I decided to throw a "Salute the Ute" party beforehand. Although really, what's there to salute? What has my uterus done for me, pretty much since it started menstruating? NOTHING, that's what. It was irregular and heavy with its periods, and then tamed into some submission when I took the pill for 15 years, but I still had horrid cramps that would drop me to the floor and curl me up like a dead bug. And then it didn't do the function it is literally meant to do, even with all the help medically we availed ourselves of. It refused to get or stay pregnant. 

So really, what do I owe it? I guess I could salute its effort, meager though it was. Also, thanks, uterus, for at least not trying to kill me through all this. I feel a little less guilty about traumatizing you now. 

Although in losing 5% of you to the endomyometrial resection, I am still traumatizing myself. It's hard when faced with writing down and then discussing your extensive gynecological history not to feel the acute and cumulative loss of all the failures and babies that never were. And then to realize that without a shadow of a doubt, nothing will ever grow in my uterus but little invaders. So I guess I don't really feel too bad about removing the part that is fertile ground for everything but babies. 

Such a mixed bag. I'm sorry, uterus. But you should kind of be sorry, too. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: Christmas Cards, Body Image Struggles

Well, the Christmas cards are ordered! I am dying to share pictures but Bryce wants me to wait, for THE MYSTERY of it all. It's killing me slowly.

I forget every year what it's like to try to find a format, a card template, whatever those things are called...because you have to sift through fake card after fake card that depicts a new baby, or a happy family, or, in the case of the company we used, one called "The More The Merrier!" that showcased a kissing couple in the background holding up the in-focus closeup of their ultrasound. Holy hell, when did THAT become a thing? No thank you. I did appreciate the many same-sex couple and family cards that were showcased. That made me forgive the company a tiny bit for the ultrasound nonsense.

We did find one that I liked, although there was one I REALLY REALLY wanted to use that was called "Make Your Own Merry" and was perfect for the "we're okay with all this waiting and a nursery that's still empty, sure" feel we had going. Too bad the text went over our faces and wasn't moveable.

I'm happy with the card we put together and ordered. I know it's crazy to spend money on hair and photographer for a card, but it made me happy. We've done a photo card together every year since we were married (that one was fun, a couple wedding photos to introduce us as a unit), and I have them all. I sort of want to make a display of them, because they do tell a story. Even if right now it's not the story we'd hoped for...

The pictures came out absolutely gorgeous. I discovered that I am hugely critical of myself though, and cannot believe the state of my jawline and chin and forearms. Why did no one tell me when you get into that middle age bracket your forearms get fluffy? I don't have the batwing arms at the top, but this forearm business is crazypants, and only shows up when my arm is at a right angle and holding something close to my body. Which seems like a picky thing to latch onto, but there it is--especially annoying because I do work out! I am trying so hard to love my body even though I felt that my dress didn't fit as well as I wanted (it was new and I wish I had had it tailored first), and in some poses it bunches around me fairly unflatteringly, and my chin wants a buddy, I have to remember that I am my own worst critic. I was sure I weighed more than I did over the summer after seeing my pictures, but actually I weigh a bit less. It drives Bryce crazy because he thinks I am gorgeous and sexy and loves a little extra fluff on me, and so why can't that be enough? I don't know.

But, the photographer and Bryce insisted that since I had my pretty hair I needed to do a couple glamour-y shots, and so I agreed and I'm glad I did. It seemed so frivolous, but Bryce said, "You need some pictures to remind you that you are beautiful as you are, to remember this time in your life." Okay, I guess so...so I changed into a simpler dress than I'd worn for the 1950s shoot and let the photographer pose me. Since those aren't on the cards, I'll share two here:

I love the smirk, like I have a secret.

I have this in color, too, but it's so classic in black and white. It's a bridal pose, but it worked and made me feel super glamorous. Do you see my little critters hanging about the window? 
That last one is my favorite. I don't feel like "UGH, NO MORE CHEESE DIP FOR JESS" when I look at it. I feel beautiful, and maybe a tiny bit like I can see myself through Bryce's lens. Something to remember when the Ughs hit me again, as they always do.

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

* Photos by TresBienImages

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Donor Material Subplot Sneak Attacks

Oh, reading. Such a wonderful pastime, such a cheap way to travel and un-creepy way to possess other bodies, other minds. Maybe the way I stated that is creepy. Oh well, it's true.

Just for the sake of spoiler alerts, the two books I'm going to talk about are Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty and The Things We Wish Were True by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen. If you haven't read these yet and you don't want anything whatsoever spoiled, quit reading now. I promise not to spoil major major plot points, but you already know that donor material wends its way through some part of the books, so hopefully that in itself is not total spoilage. But yeah, I'm going to spoil things about the subplots, so stop reading if you haven't read them yet and are planning to. I mean it. Come back after.


Truly, Madly, Guilty
Truly, Madly, Guilty first, because it irritated me least. Liane Moriarty is no stranger to writing about infertility, since I've previously written about how a very realistic IVF experience shows up in a rather large subplot in What Alice Forgot. That one really got me, because I was fresh off IVF-ing when I read it, in the getting-homestudy-approved phase of adoption. It made me tear up, but because it was realistic and very much accurate in my mind. Truly, Madly, Guilty is different, because the subplot is fairly important to the dynamics of the main issue in the book. Basically, these three couples (two of whom have children) have an impromptu barbecue, and SOMETHING happens at the barbecue that affects every last one of them including the crotchety older man next door, and you don't find out what that SOMETHING is until fairly far into the book. The chapters are from various perspectives and divided up into The Day of the Barbecue and unlabeled chapters that are clearly months later, and then close to the end, The Day After the Barbecue. I will not reveal the SOMETHING.

But, the subplot is that the neighbors who do not have children, Erika and Oliver, have been secretly going through IVF (eleven rounds of IVF in two years apparently) and have recently found out that Erika's eggs are poor quality and that they need to find an egg donor. They are asking their friends, Clementine and Sam, if Clementine will be their egg donor, since in Australia you need to find a known donor or the rare anonymous uncompensated other than medical costs donor, as the way so many do it in the US is illegal. Something I didn't know, actually. There is a shortage of egg donors in Australia, and so their doctor tells them they need to approach a friend or relative as that will be the easiest, least complicated option (um, okay...). As you can imagine this causes a lot of tension that adds to whatever the SOMETHING is that happens at the barbecue that changes everyone.

For one, Clementine and Sam are flabbergasted that two years and eleven rounds of IVF have gone by without them knowing. They also throw in a "but you said you didn't want children!" to Erika, which makes her bristle because apparently can't you change your mind on that front? Erika and Oliver say they didn't want to share their struggle, it was their private thing, but now they need help. They don't tell anyone that if they can't find a known donor then that option is not likely going to work for them, and everyone assumes that there are other options, which seemed pretty realistic to me.

Erika is more ambivalent than her husband about parenthood though, more willing to accept if it doesn't work out, but very willing to do whatever it takes to give her husband the child he wants so badly.

Clementine's thoughts in her head show a reluctance from the start, "To their own child, thought Clementine despairingly. They'd be good parents to their own child. Not my child. It wouldn't be your child, Clementine. But it would. Technically, as Holly would say, it would be her child. Her DNA. People do this for strangers, she told herself. They donate eggs just to be nice, to be kind. To people they'd never met. This was her friend. Her "best friend." So why was the word "No!" so loud in her head?" (p. 94)

And then, the worst thing happens...as Clementine is talking her feelings over with her husband as they go to change their youngest girl's diaper, Erika comes up with the diaper bag and overhears the conversation. It doesn't go well. When Sam asks Clementine if she wants to do it, she says no, a gut no, but then calls the whole thing repulsive, and then says, "I think I'd feel like it was my baby. I'd feel like they had my baby."

Oh, tension tension tension. I actually thought that the complexity of donor egg is handled well, from all the viewpoints. The overly simplified way Erika's husband, Oliver thinks of it, the gut reaction Clementine felt at being asked, the way it affects the strained friendship that they have already. The horrors of accidentally letting it slip to a parent who may not agree with your decision. (Erika's mom has some issues, but clearly makes her thoughts known when she laments not having a "real" grandchild and being further beholden to Clementine's family if she donates her eggs, and seems to have no idea what they've been through to get to this point, only seeing it from her own selfish viewpoint.)

I also like that things aren't wrapped up as neat and tidy as infertility subplots often are. SPOILER; they don't go through with the friend egg donation. They make peace with never being pregnant. Oliver researches foster adoption, because both he and Erika had very complicated family lives growing up and he thinks they could have an insight into hurting children that maybe might help them be more prepared for the difficulties of such an adventure. And the difficulties aren't glossed over, but there's no child at the end for them. No miracle pregnancy. No baby-dropped-in-the-lap. And that is very much appreciated.

It was interesting, because I was very happy to have an anonymous egg donor when we went through that process. I might have liked to have known more about her, and later have had the option to have my child be able to know her in some way, but I didn't have to have an incredibly awkward conversation with a friend about it, or think about those dynamics. That is one of many reasons why we didn't pursue gestational carrier. Using an agency is illegal in New York, and even using a known carrier is legally tricky, and even approaching those conversations in a hypothetical way was terribly, terribly awkward and prefaced with "we'd never actually do this, but..." One friend said that she'd have a much easier time being a gestational carrier than an egg donor, because she felt the same as Clementine -- it would really be HER baby, whereas carrying that baby would be easier. Which I thought would actually be the other way around, in the end no one really truly wanted to do either (and we didn't really want them to, either, so it was all fair and good). I cringed at the scenario in the book, but felt it was accurate and added so many tensions to an already tense situation that gets way, way worse -- deliciously so for the book.

The Things We Wish Were True
This one just plain pissed me off. It was an infertility subplot that I feel is only one step away from that awful gestational-carrier-gone-wrong movie that came out in the late summer/early fall. There is no way for me to discuss this one without ruining one of the four storylines that weave their way through this book. The book was okay, but this subplot was very, very irritating. And HIGHLY unrealistic.

It's Bryte's story. (Even the name Bryte irritated me...there were so many strange names here -- Bryte, Jencey, Zell, Cailey...and I know it was set in the South where interesting names reign, but COME ON.)

Bryte and her husband, Everett, have a two-year-old son named Christopher, who's the spitting image of his daddy. They tried hard to have him and went through an infertility clinic, when finally they were blessed with their little boy. The problem is, Everett wants a second child and Bryte is determined that she won't go through that again. It seemed to have affected her significantly. She became a sort of shell of herself during that process and is perfectly happy to have one child. That part seems realistic, even her starting to look into going back to work so that it will be harder to go the fertility clinic. Everett was an only child and doesn't want that for his son because it was very lonely and awful apparently, so he keeps pressing the issue.

So much so, actually, that he plans a visit to the fertility clinic by himself to gather information and see what it will take to "get the ball rolling," and then bring that information back to Bryte as he thinks that maybe she is just a little post-traumatic-stressed and needs a little nudge.

Which to me doesn't sound like a very supportive, loving approach, but this does happen where two people diverge in their thoughts on family building options at some point in the journey.

The thing that really, really pissed me off though is that towards the end of the book, there's a sort of double double cross. Everett goes to the fertility clinic AT THE VERY SAME TIME that Bryte goes to meet a work contact whose business card she has kept since a meeting over two years ago for a drink to talk about a job, supposedly, and so they are both sort of betraying each other. Except when Bryte goes to meet this guy, it's clear they had something more than business going on before and he strangely looks JUST LIKE EVERETT, and then at the same time Everett goes to the doctor and is told FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME that he has severe male factor and cannot father his own biological children. A fact apparently left out of all their previous medical records.

A fact that Bryte knew during a medical appointment she attended by herself, and kept from Everett because she didn't want him to know this heartbreaking news, and then she had the recruiting meeting with the other guy who JUST HAPPENED TO LOOK LIKE HER HUSBAND and had sex EXACTLY ONCE and then got pregnant, POOF, with Christopher, who looks so much like Everett that she thought she was "home free."

Oh holy throw my Kindle across the room. First of all, what self-respecting doctor would share that information with you but not your husband, ever? I mean, I guess they didn't go back after she got pregnant and she didn't go to the clinic for her early pregnancy scans, so you could feasibly have that kept secret, but DON'T THEY TEST THOSE THINGS FAIRLY EARLY? Aren't they required to tell you your medical diagnosis, yourself? Wouldn't there at least be some sort of patient portal? The book takes place in 2014 so it seems records transparency would be the norm.

Also, I feel like the whole "I'm so desperate to give my husband the baby he desires I'll go off and do some sort of indecent-proposal secret affair thing with this doppelganger and NO ONE WILL EVER KNOW" trope is just stupid. It plays into the desperation. It plays into the "whatever it takes," but in a highly unrealistic fashion.

So, after having a crisis that his son isn't technically "his," and asking Bryte to leave for a whopping several hours, he even gives her the phone, asking her to redial and showing that he can look the other way while she goes and gets knocked up again with a sibling with this random guy who has no idea he has a genetic link out there. She says no. Even though the timing is apparently PERFECT and one shot can totally get you pregnant.

I think that was one of the things that bothered me most, was this idea that a one-time deal timed perfectly with a virtual stranger could get that bun in the oven. NO NO NO. So unrealistic.

Also, after they decide that she's not going to have sex with someone else to get pregnant with a sibling who looks like their son, they say that they don't want to do sperm donor or adoption because "the differences would be too obvious" from their son. Yeah, that's logical. Better to have a one-night stand and get the good stuff.

But, apparently, they change their minds because at a get together with neighbors at the end of the book someone says that "oh, a little girl would be so wonderful for you!" and their response is, "Well, we're thinking of adopting one!"

Tie the ribbon on nice and neat and tidy, they're just going to go out and adopt a little girl to complete their family, lickety-split. No mention of the difficulties that were so realistic in Truly, Madly, Guilty. No mention that selecting gender is highly discouraged in adoption, as it's not a baby store. And no mention of any thought process that led them to believe that adoption, having a baby that was "obviously different," was a good choice after all.

Trite, trite, trite. God, I really hated this plot in the book.

It's interesting to see how donor material is treated in fiction. While I wasn't expecting it, Truly, Madly, Guilty was fairly realistic and sensitively handled. The Things We Wish Were True was not. It was like the worst of soap opera plotlines, and treated like it was totally along the realm of possibility, and that that scenario was something a marriage could overcome, no problem. Oh, and they have no intention of ever telling their son that he is not biologically his father's, ever, so I'm sure that will work out great long term when he finds out (because you always find out)...and it makes me worried about their approach to adoption.

Really, I need to get a grip, because I am angry about a completely fictional marriage and a completely fictional group of people, but I just thought it played into so many things about donor and adoption (heritage doesn't matter, pretend there's not a difference, deception is okay if it gets you the family you desire). It's that whole "desperate infertile woman" thing, but I guess I have to give credit that the author also included a "desperate infertile man," something you don't see too often in fiction.

Read at your own risk. I would recommend Truly, Madly, Guilty as Liane Moriarty is a tremendous writer, so skilled at interweaving multiple perspectives around the same event. Just know that donor egg is a big (although not the biggest) part of it.

Personally, I would skip The Things We Wish Were True entirely. Although there was one quote that I really appreciated, about the only thing that I took away of value from the book:

"...there were things she wished were true, and there was what was actually true. She was learning that there was usually a great distance between the two."

That I can understand and find highly, highly realistic.

Saturday, November 26, 2016


In this midst of infertility and not-yet-successful adoption, it can be hard to find things to be thankful for. I mean, I am looking at the consult for my hysteroscopy to figure out what the hell is going on in there this coming week, there's no profile opportunities to be seen, everyone asks for updates which I appreciate but it's hard when there's no update to give, and I am just TIRED. Plus the whole political climate thing that can bring a body way, way down.

But, two weeks ago in my co-taught English class there was a journal assignment...25 things you're thankful for. For some of my students it was easy, and ironically for some who have A LOT to be thankful for, it was hard. 25 things...I guess it is a pretty lengthy list! I thought I would give it a try. Spoiler alert: Infertility itself is NOT on this list.

1) My husband, Bryce, who loves me truly unconditionally and with a ferocity that at times I fear I don't deserve.
2) Bryce's baking abilities, which include making things like gluten free coconut custard pie and a pumpkin pie with stovetop custard involving candied yams as well. Come ON. So yummy.
3) My house. Even though we are running out of space and Bryce hits his head on the regular, it is warm and cozy and provides us with shelter and conveniences.
4) My job. I am so lucky to love what I do -- it's hard, that's true, but to have a job that is also a way of life and to feel like it's not just a job but a passion...so lucky.
5) My cats. Even Abner, the gross one who's currently sneezing everywhere (although perhaps I'm a smidge less thankful for him and the way he marks our home with his bodily materials). They are cozy, and Lucky sleeps next to me like a teddy bear and has grown resigned to me holding him like a baby. It's the little things.
6) My best friend's drives to yoga, because it gives us time to talk without interruption (a rarity when she's home since she has three kids 10 and under).
7) My best friend. She's known me since I was four, and we've been really really good friends since sophomore year of high school. Our lives are so different now, but we still get each other and make it a point to visit each other in person at least once per season. Actually, we're due for a visit...
8) My family. We don't always see eye to eye, but they are supportive and loving.
9) My ridiculous book collection. I love that I have, no joke, at least 20 books (probably way more) in the house that I haven't read yet, and thousands that I have. I can see them and return to them like old friends. I can shop for a book in my own home. It's lovely.
10) Bryce's ability to build bookshelves. Hint, hint, hint. Not sure where another one would go, but if we can make space he can make a beautiful piece of furniture!
12) My work friends. They see me probably more than anyone else, and appreciate (or at least tolerate?) my tendency to break into song when I'm tired or make inappropriate comments or jokes. They also get when teaching gets you bone tired or when you just need to vent.
13) My violin. I ignored it for a little while there, but I've been playing it more lately and I just appreciate so much the gift that was given about twenty years ago by both my parentals when I was in college. It's a beautiful instrument.
14) Being asked to play the fiddler in the play. It made me practice more, and it introduced me to a whole slew of kids I wouldn't have gotten to know otherwise. It made me brave.
13) Book club. The fact that I joined a club where I only knew my next door neighbor and now I have all these friends who are in totally different worlds than me (they work in finance and corporate things) but we are all linked by a love of reading and interesting books. And food. But mostly, the books. We seriously do a good job of actually discussing the book, and discussing it hard.
15) My garden. It's buried under snow, but I love the colorful, bee-filled chaos that is my garden. I love that it's wild. I love that it's more pollinator-based and less design-based.
16) Weeding. Out of season, but man I love weeding. So calming, and you can see progress pretty quickly. A satisfying chore.
17) My Dyson animal hair vacuum. Seems a silly thing to be thankful for, but holy hell does that do a good job picking up the cat hair two cats produce. Sort of like weeding, but with cat hair. I love vacuuming with it because you can just SEE how clean everything is after. (But also how quickly schmutz re-accumulates.)
18) My (relatively) new kitchen. Knocking down that wall and tying everything in to the dining room made our small house seem so much bigger, without an addition. And it's SO FUNCTIONAL. Love it.
19) Trader Joe's fruit jellies. They are just SO GOOD.
20) My friends I've had since college. They make me laugh, they encourage shenanigans, they understand when things are crappy.
21) This blog. It helps me process, it helps me connect to people who have had similar journeys to me and also very different experiences. It gives me perspective. It gives me an outlet. It helps me make sense of things I'll never truly make sense of, not totally. It helps me to see light at the end of various tunnels.
22) The community I've gotten to know -- people going through infertility, people parenting after infertility, people who've endured unimaginable losses, people who've adopted, people who are adopting, people who are living childfree not by choice. I am so, so grateful to you for your friendship and viewpoints and insight and support.
23) My sense of humor. The ability to laugh through things that should just make me cry all the time, the ability to give our circumstances the finger and enjoy life anyway.
24) The love I have for my husband, through all the things we have been through. Through every disappointment, every loss, every crushing blow, every small whittling of the dream that comes so easily to some but not to us. I am so lucky for our love.
25) The strength and perseverance I have within me that wasn't given by infertility but was there all along and given the chance to flourish in the face of adversity. The strength to fight for the possibility of a family, and to say enough when the time is right (to infertility treatment, and hopefully not to the possibility of adoption). There are times when I wonder if we push too hard, but I will never, ever have to wonder if we did enough.

Okay, I admit it...that was actually harder than I thought. 25 things is a LOT. (I want to add that of course I am grateful for food to eat and clean water and clothing to protect me from the cold...I didn't include those because I went in order without stopping, stream-of-consciousness style, and they seemed givens, but those are not givens. I am very grateful for the accident of my birth and the series of events that led me to live in a nice, fruitful area of New York.)

It's good to think on gratefulness from time to time, especially when it seems that life is so unfair, and to really think on all the things that are good and nurturing and helpful--all the things little and not-so, that really make that silver lining a plush thick one.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Oh, The Holidays

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the winter holidays for me. A big day of cooking and eating and family, and then off we go to the races of holiday parties and holiday events and Christmas Cards and the Christmas holiday itself.

Tomorrow will be fine. We are hosting Thanksgiving, and my husband's mom and stepfather are here from Maine and my parents are coming down and so we will have six people at our table. We are lucky, because there won't be people who aren't in the know about our family situation (or lack thereof), there won't be small children there, there won't be so many of the landmines and pitfalls that can beset a holiday dinner with family. There may be the off unintentionally thoughtless comment, but I think we can get through those. All in all, it will be not nearly as painful as it will be for others in our shoes, others wearing shoes we've worn before -- when no one knows the extent of your pain and you have to do a gritted smile through everything and try real hard not to scream when something thoughtless is said and attempt to make it through without drinking all the wine in the house.

The Christmas parties...they will be okay. We have a couple we're going to where I don't know very many people and neither does Bryce, and so the "do you have kids?" might come up, and I just don't have a socially appropriate answer to that one anymore. Much less when someone tells us how lucky we are not to have a babysitter or to get a full nights' sleep. Yes, yes, that's great, but we would RATHER BE HOME WITH A BABY, THANKYOUVERYMUCH.

One Christmas party might be challenging but I am trying to keep an open mind. Challenging because there are expecting people going to this one and some new mommies and women who are obsessed with all things babies and children, and I have nothing to offer there and do not at all want to listen to a birth story or birth plan or how hard it is to make it through the holidays without a glass of wine. Luckily, there's also another couple who has no children, and while their circumstance is different from ours, they will be our allies that night. (It will also be challenging because there's a fair number of supporters for our president-elect, and I can't keep my big mouth shut when people say things that are just plain ignorant. I try to do it with kindness, but holy hell it's going to be hard if there is spewing of vile crap at this party. My goal is to both keep to my personal integrity and NOT get my husband in trouble, ha.)

Another is my work party, and this is usually awkward because everyone talks about their families. Not like parents-family, but children-family. I have NOTHING to add here. I have given all the updates I have. The people hosting have two small children and the house is full of evidence of tiny lives, and that can be hard. It's easier when my other administrator hosts, because his kids are mostly out of the house and his oldest is a senior. Not a lot of tiny person detritus in that house.

And...cards. Heh heh heh, cards. So you will remember that last year our holiday card featured the beautiful adoption shoot that we did in November. Well, a year has passed and no dice (story of our lives), so we decided to do a different kind of shoot. When I have the photos I'll share, but let's just say we spent a fair amount of time on Sunday doing a shoot that I like to call "Norman Rockwell Gone Horribly Wrong." Very tongue-in-cheek. Very different vibe from last year's abject hopefulness, but still not sad. Darkly humorous. I hope it comes across the way I want it to. I mean, I hired a photographer and got my hair done in period early 1950s style and did my face the same, so I sure hope it's worth it! Gave me a chuckle, at least.
Sneak peek of hair and makeup...
Finally...Christmas itself. Last year we stayed home and had a tree and had our family Christmas just the two of us, with Boxing Day with my parents. We hoped it would be the last Christmas just the two of us. Well, it wasn't.

So what we decided was to throw our holiday into the fuckit bucket, and book four nights in Vermont. It feels somehow selfish to spend a family oriented holiday by ourselves in a setting that's entirely restorative and based on outdoor activities, reading by the fire, eating and drinking decadently... but then again, things haven't worked out as we'd hoped yet again and so this will keep us from being sad saps around a tree in our living room, alone with each other again. It's going to be great. It's what we need. I am SO looking forward to it.

And so, that is how we are getting through the holidays. I look forward to the cards we'll receive, with children who once were babies and now are reaching double digits, even though they mark a march through time we've missed. I look forward to the parties and the get-togethers and sending out our own snarky card that shows just how time has stood still, in a cheeky way. I look forward to hiding away from it all in the valleys of Vermont.

I can hope that next year will be different, but if it looks like this, that's not too shabby either. I am pretty darn fortunate. I have an incredible love, friends to celebrate with, and the resources to hide away in a snowy mountain retreat. Although all the pieces we'd hoped for aren't in place, we have a beautiful life, and I am very, very thankful for that.

I hope the holidays are kind to everyone this year. I hope you find a spot of brightness in what can be a dark time if your family isn't where you'd hoped it would be.

Monday, November 21, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: Snow Day

Sometimes, the universe throws you a bone.

We had our first snow yesterday into today, and it was a doozy -- about 11 inches, blustery winds that created blizzard conditions, and just super heavy, wet snow.

I put my pajamas on inside out last night, put ice cubes in the toilets, and put a spoon in the freezer. Don't get me wrong, I love teaching, but this year has been incredibly complex with more parent calls and meetings than I've ever had, I spent my weekend at the Christmas Carol performances where I was the Fezziwig Fiddler (so three 2.5 hour commitments between pre-show and show, where I was on stage a whopping three minutes...brief but totally worth it), Sunday was spent on a personal project I'll tell you about in a bit, and I've been fighting a respiratory thing and migraines on top of it all. A snow day was a total gift.

The thing about snow days is that they are a truly free day -- a day you expected to work, a day you planned for, a day you don't have to write sub plans for or worry about NOT having sub coverage as has been happening more frequently later -- and so you can just relax. You have time to go sledding or snowball fighting with your kids if you have them (says Facebook). You have time to sit on the couch wrapped in a cozy throw blanket and finish reading the book you've been sandwiching between student novels if you don't, and you even have time to squeeze in a nice sweaty workout.

This past week or so has been completely insane with meetings and obligations and play rehearsal and preview assemblies (three performances in a row! wheeee!) and performances and getting the house and grocery shopping ready for hosting Thanksgiving that having an extra free day without any plans in it was the best thing EVER.

Thank you, lake effect snow...I owe you one.

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

Monday, November 14, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: Time Flies

How can it almost be Thanksgiving? It seems unbelievable to me that the holiday season has snuck up on me and I haven't even bought a turkey yet for the family meal we're hosting. I like to do my Christmas shopping BEFORE Thanksgiving, and that's out, too...it just seems like everything is just speeding up and speeding by.

I am looking forward to our Christmas in Vermont and starting to put together a stack of books (mentally not physically, as there's stacks of books everywhere) to take there.

I am hoping that I can have my hysteroscopy scheduled in early December (wishful thinking?) so that I am all set and done with this nonsense in time for a romantic, hopefully snowy, fireplace-filled respite for the holidays. It turns out my endometrial biopsies were negative for polyps, but there's something at that top end of my uterus that could be a small polyp, or a small fibroid, or the very odd "possible buildup of endometrial tissue" -- so off to the specialist I go to get eyeballs on my broken womb.

I so want this vacation to be a capper on another year that's come and gone (so far) without a change in our family status, not one that's depressing and reminds us that everything stays the same but one that is rejuvenating and restorative, and leaves us refreshed to face another year where things have the potential to change at any time, but also to stay the same. I vote for the former.

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

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Importance of Birth Control

I am concerned about a lot of things with the election results, but one of my top concerns is women's health. Abortion is the obvious issue that has me fearful.

But I'd like to talk about birth control.

It seems that there are people who feel that birth control is a bad thing. It shouldn't be provided for free. If you have religious beliefs that say birth control is tinkering with God's will, then you should not be mandated to provide it to your employees who may or may not believe the same as you. Some birth control forms are veritable early abortions -- preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg. So say these people.

Our new Vice President is one of these people.

I am very, very angry about this stance. If you do not want to use birth control because of your religious views, I say have at it. Do whatever your beliefs mandate YOU to do. But, when you start taking your religious beliefs and pushing them on ME, you are no longer talking religious freedom. You are talking suppression of others' beliefs, because your beliefs shouldn't influence my family planning decisions. I do not have a problem with birth control.

In fact, birth control is pretty amazing for a variety of reasons.

Birth Control Is A Medical Treatment
I was on birth control pills starting at 18, the summer before college. Not because I was having sex at the time (I wasn't quite yet), but because I had periods that felt like they were trying to kill me. They were unpredictable. When they came, they were heavy. As in a deluge that required constant trips to the bathroom and came with cramps that laid me flat (or curled in a ball). It took several tries to get a birth control pill that helped with this, that also didn't give me migraines. Initially, my birth control use was entirely to treat a medical condition. It can be used to treat PCOS, endometriosis, and any irregularity or painful periods. It allowed me to not be a slave to my flighty uterus that could leave me periodless for up to 9 months, and then release a torrent of awfulness. Like the time I took my Physics Regents and had my period, and left once in the first hour to go take care of business and then realized I needed to go again in the second hour and the proctor WOULD NOT LET ME. So I told her I'd leave a puddle in my chair if she didn't let me go, and...she was left with a puddle to contend with. I didn't do so well on that exam, which was partly because of my disinterest in physics and partly because I WAS BLEEDING ALL OVER MYSELF. Something which stopped when I went on the Pill. Right now I am on Depo Provera, to help keep the PCOS nonsense in check. It is a medical treatment course.

Even When It's Not Medical Treatment, Birth Control Creates Freedom For Women
If you would like a divine power to decide how many children you have, that is a choice that you can make. For yourself. For many women, having the capacity to prevent pregnancy through any variety of birth control means freedom. Freedom from having pregnancy after pregnancy and having that be your role. Freedom from the medical risk of many pregnancies, one right after the other (obviously if you're fertile, as some of us don't have to worry as much about this piece). Ability to space out your children as you would like. Ability to NOT have children if that is not what you want. Ability to limit the number of children you have for financial reasons. Without birth control, women are brought back to archaic times when their roles were very limited. Now, if birth control becomes more of a financial burden, I will still be able to obtain it because I am fortunate. But those who can't afford it? They will be more likely to have more children, and I feel like women living in poverty who have many children don't exactly get respect for it. They are often denigrated, whether they chose to have more children or not, for being a burden on taxpayers, for "breeding" when they can't afford it, and on and on. Seems not fair to me. It's called family planning because it allows you to have those children (or not) on your terms, not a roll of the dice (or divine mandate).

I Thought This Part Was Obvious: Birth Control Prevents Abortions
If women are able to afford and use medically sound birth control, they are FAR less likely to have an unplanned pregnancy. One that might be wanted if the timing was better, if the financial situation was different. If you have fewer unplanned pregnancies, there's fewer abortions. It's a simple concept. Birth control that prevents an egg from being fertilized or a possibly fertilized egg to implant is NOT actually a form of abortion. Every day there are fertilized eggs that don't implant. If every fertilized egg implanted, I would not have had the difficulty I have had in becoming a mother. I would have A LOT of children, because I had 27 fertilized eggs that passed through me at different stages and everything was set up for the optimum success and STILL those suckers didn't implant. The average fertile couple only has about a 20% chance of getting pregnant any given month. Birth control prevents circumstances that make conception (successful implantation in my mind, otherwise again I've conceived 35 times and embryos I've conceived will be gestated by the couple in the MidWest who have adopted our remaining 8 embryos) possible. It doesn't disrupt a pregnancy. It keeps one from happening. And if you don't get pregnant when it's not the desired outcome, you don't have to make the tough choices. I would think this would be a good thing -- preventing the need for abortions in the first place. It's odd to me to be against BOTH.

Some People Need Birth Control to GET Pregnant
Guess what was part of every IVF protocol I had? Birth control pills. Yes, that's right, for me and countless other women, you needed to be on birth control to suppress your system to get ready to receive embryos that could become babies. It is part of the process, not for all protocols but for MANY. I guess if you don't want to tinker with the divine plan IVF falls under that umbrella so maybe this one isn't so compelling, but IVF is supposed to help create new life! To help out in the whole procreation thing! And if there's no birth control, it doesn't quite work as well. Interesting, no?

It really confuses me, especially when men have such strong opinions on what goes in and out of my body. Or really, when anyone who is not my husband or my doctor is part of the discussion about what I should or shouldn't do with my body. We have choices, and choices are good. I don't have to get an IUD, but friends of mine love the device. I cannot do estrogen-based pills anymore, but I have progesterone-based options, including Depo. Even though my body has failed me in the reproductive arena, without birth control I would be an emotional mess, never sure if maybe something could have happened that could raise my hopes (even though the chances of my getting pregnant naturally are beyond slim, what with my ovaries that don't ovulate most of the time, my one Fallopian tube, my scarred up uterus, and the male factor). It helps me stay sane. It helps treat my medical condition.

Birth control is important. Having access to free or inexpensive birth control options should be a medical right -- just as it is anyone's right to NOT take advantage of it if it is against their beliefs. But restricting it for all women? NOT OKAY. That's not freedom. That's oppression. And I hope with all my heart that it does not come to pass.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Hope Is A Thing With...Fangs

Hope is a funny thing. It's supposed to be this bright light, this thing that gets you through the bad shit. It allows you to believe that good things can happen, even in absence of any actual proof.

But when it comes to infertility, hope is difficult. It's a double-edged sword, because it can push you forward, but it can also push you to do more than is reasonable in the name of getting pregnant. And you can hope all you want, but sometimes you just aren't going to be that success story.

Last week I was scrolling around facebook, and I saw a video posted by one of my former clinics, one that was very research-based and fairly conservative. It featured a doctor I am fond of, personally, and so I watched it.

Oh how I wish I hadn't watched it.

It was basically about three breakthroughs in technology over the past several years related to IVF that has resulted in, "Some of the highest success rates I've ever seen in my career."  One is doing PGD on every embryo, and then transferring just one instead of more because the healthy ones are more likely to implant. Another is improved freezing practices (I guess they are doing vitrification now, which was being done in other places for years prior), and the last was delaying transfer until a month or two after retrieval, since FETs are now so much more likely to succeed thanks to vitrification and I assume letting the body recover from the trauma of extraction.

The video was very new-age-y, with music and a calm sonorous voice throughout, and very, very positive. "Our patients have more reason to hope than ever before."
"We are seeing success rates of  60-70%, sometimes even higher."
"Older patients have traditionally had lower success rates and higher miscarriage rates with IVF. But now with these new technologies, we're seeing the same pregnancy rates that our younger patients have experienced."
"Implanting just one egg avoids risk of multiple-birth pregnancy."

Did you catch that last one? IMPLANTING. Not transferring, although the term "transfer" is used throughout, but IMPLANTING. I can't tell you how much I hate that terminology, which is false and misleading. They don't implant the motherfucking embryo. They transfer it and HOPE that it implants, because if they could IMPLANT the damn thing, pregnancy rates would be 100% and there would be some serious voodoo magic going on. Please tell me that the ASRM (American Society of Reproductive Medicine) hasn't decided that it's okay to use the term "implant" for the transfer procedure. That one filled me with fury.

Now, I really do enjoy this doctor. Even though I did not get pregnant and stay that way, and we always seemed to fall on the WRONG side of every single statistic, I don't blame him for any part of that. He was also the only person to start the conversation of, "If this next cycle with your frozen 2PNs doesn't work, we will have that conversation about you choosing other paths to parenthood." Not exactly a come-to-Jesus moment, but the closest we ever got. (It's my fault that I heard that and promptly went to another clinic that would sell me more hope.)

Because that's what this feels like to me. Selling hope. It feels a little smarmy to me.

I will be honest, when I watched it, the thought did cross my mind...What if technologies have progressed so much that we have a shot? Maybe these new breakthroughs since we've been out of this game would do something for US!

And then I snapped out of it. And was so mad that even for that brief moment I entertained the thought of going back down the rabbit hole of treatment that did nothing but empty our pocketbooks and damage my emotional well-being and my reproductive system. I could argue that had I not pursued IVF, I would have both my tubes and I would not have uterine scarring. I'd probably still have those pesky polyps, but the others were a direct result of treatment and outcomes from that treatment. Not in a liability-laden way, but just in a matter-of-fact way. I am forever changed because I did 13 rounds of IVF, 10 transfers (since 3 were cancelled), 27 embryos gone the way of the dodo, 8 embryos off in Texas to be transferred to a hopefully more receptive womb in the couple who adopted them. WHY ON EARTH WOULD I GO BACK TO THAT?

But that's sort of the point of a video like that, right? It's a marketing tool when you shed all the emotional feel-good stuff of bringing healthy babies to couples who are infertile. I don't doubt that the doctor truly loves his work and that it is so rewarding when things work out. But it just reeked of peddling hope. And I felt like I was susceptible to the siren song, if only briefly.

It's so hard to know when to stop, to feel like you can say ENOUGH, when new technologies are always coming out. It's a strong thing to say NO MORE in the face of the continual hope and progress and nevergiveup mentality that weaves its way through the IVF industry.

Now, it could be that I am bitter because it didn't work for me. And I definitely felt bitter when EVERY SINGLE COMMENT on the video post was people praising the clinic and the doctor for all of their "Miracles." No joke, every one referenced their child as a Miracle. And that shit goes through me like a nail. Maybe I would have felt differently if I'd been successful, but I can tell you that when you fall on the other side of success rates, the term "miracle baby" makes you feel somehow undeserving of said miracle, like you were passed over or unworthy somehow of that experience and so were not blessed in that way. That is for other people, not you.

It's a shitty way to feel. These kinds of promotions also make you feel like you didn't do enough -- that you threw in the towel too soon, that had we only waited ONE MORE YEAR maybe we could have used these technologies. Did we give up? Did we fail to do everything possible? THAT IS THE FEELING THAT VIDEO INVOKES IN ME.  That and every person who claims that this diet or that acupuncture regularity or this leave of absence from work was the miracle cure that resulted in pregnancy.

There are so many ways to feel deficient, and it doesn't stop with infertility treatment. We are being told constantly to "Hang in there!" "Don't give up on your dream!" "It WILL happen, you just have to keep the faith!" with adoption.

Do you know what that feels like? It feels like if we don't adopt, if we hit a point where we have no steam left and we can't keep living in this limbo, that it's OUR FAULT. We didn't persevere enough. We aren't doing enough. We aren't doing private adoption, so are we really that dedicated? It's all UP TO US.

I know people who say these things are well-meaning. But, as much as I wish I had another seven years to give to adoption, I DON'T. We spent five and a half years doing the infertility treatment thing. It was too long. It took too much from us in every way. I don't have the same amount of time to give to another process. I wish we had started earlier, when we weren't so tired, so beaten down by always waiting for something amorphous that just doesn't seem to ever materialize.

I hope that we receive our call before the date we've set as our Hail Mary timeframe. It's a decent amount of time that fits into national timeframes for adopting, as opposed to the 6-9 months from homestudy to placement average that we were given by the agency (which isn't working for us, as we're in month 16). But as Bryce said the other night, "I can't do what we did with IVF. I can't keep this up indefinitely. I need to know that we can live our life at some point, either with or without a child, free of this in-between place."

It never fails to make me cry. This would not be the ending that I'd envisioned to this journey. BUT, there's enough time between now and D-Day (decision day) that I feel comfortable with setting it. And I hope, I so hope that our Mystery Baby comes before that day. Because hope can be helpful, but it can also wear you down, suck you bloodless, and leave you a husk of yourself as you put your life on hold for that chance at parenthood that should have come so much more easily than it turned out.

#Microblog Mondays: A Different Context for Ultrasounds

It's weird to see your bits on a big screen and feel like you are seeing an old friend, or a frenemy as the case may be.

I had my saline sonohistogram on Saturday, and it was both surreal and highly unpleasant.

I'm not sure the ultrasound tech enjoyed my jokes...like when my ovaries (which had a surprising number of follicles clearly visible) showed up on the screen and I said, "Oh, hello, ovaries...thanks for NOTHING!"

I thought it was hilarious. I'm not sure she felt the same.

The upshot is, there is something at the top of my uterus, possibly a polyp, possibly a small fibroid, but the scarring wasn't clearly visible on the SSG.

I can tell you that the catheter and the filling up of my uterus with saline was just as shitty as it's ever been.

And then I had the extra pleasure of having two endometrial biopsies done.

Remind me again why they wouldn't give me a prescription for one valium before this procedure? It was awful. I was crampy all day Saturday and into the night. My uterus was thoroughly pissed off with me.

I get results on Wednesday. I've already been told the likely outcome will be me seeing a specialist who does hysteroscopies routinely, under anesthesia, in his office. I probably have an endocervical polyp (or a small colony, as has been the case for the past few hysteroscopies I've endured...they look like little waving aliens hanging out by my cervix, inside my uterus. It's a party I wish would disperse.). I'm a bit weirded out by whatever was causing an anomaly at the top of my uterus, where my scarring is. Maybe I can add fibroids to my list.

Anyway, it's strange to get such a close up and personal view of your ovaries and uterus and have it have absolutely nothing to do with reproducing. No frantic writing down of follicle measurements or lining thicknesses in a floral notebook. Nothing but a quest for answers for this unusual bleeding, and hopes that there's nothing nefarious happening in my nethers that have been so thoroughly traumatized for really, in the end, no good reason.

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

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Seven Years -- Anniversary Highlights

Seven years...so many days, weeks, and months of moments shared between us over that time. We celebrated our anniversary over a full week, and two weekends, because of our legal-and-ceremony dates. We did a pretty darn good job of not going down the rabbit hole during our celebrations, and keeping our shared infertility anniversary out of the picture. Mostly. 

On Saturday October 22nd, we went out for a fancy dinner at one of our favorite fancy restaurants. We felt a little like we were scamming for free champagne, since they always ask if you are celebrating something and we'd been twice before fairly recently to celebrate our 10-year dating anniversary and my 30 book summer reading challenge win, but they served us anniversary champagne anyway. Who are we to say no to that? 

In a giant booth, snuggling up with our champagne
The food is just spectacular here, and we ended up getting exactly the same thing. This new curried cauliflower soup is out of this world -- it's got "cauliflower couscous" which is really three types of raw cauliflower chopped into couscous sized pieces, with a curry gel artfully arranged in the bowl, and then they pour the cauliflower soup puree over these things from a pretty carafe and you get to stir it up or not however you like. It is amazing. Then we both got the tenderloin, which is my new favorite because it has morels and a cabernet sauvignon sauce, a grilled carrot puree that is sweet and savory all at once, and this potato pave thing that's these paper thin layers of potatoes pressed into a dense brick of deliciousness. Amazing. We also had a bottle of Spanish wine that's new to them but not on the menu because of limited production, and so they said they serve it for special events or if people ask for "something new and interesting" and an earthy straight up tempranillo is a good match. We had a dessert wine sampler with the butterscotch creme brulee (with Marcona almonds on top!), so we could each try a taste of three different kinds. It was the perfect foodie meal for us, with perfect wine pairings and a snuggly giant booth where we could have a bit of privacy. 

The next weekend, we celebrated our ceremony anniversary by going to a fancy hotel that overlooks the valley -- made possible by me "winning" a silent auction bid at an event in March to fund fertility preservation for cancer patients. And...always tell people it's your anniversary, because when we checked in and we mentioned it, they upgraded us to a swanky jacuzzi suite! Now, it was quiet and that suite was probably going to be empty, but they didn't have to upgrade us and it was quite the room. 

View from our room
The room had a very odd Egyptian theme going on, so that you could sort of pretend you weren't 5 minutes from a giant mall and 10 minutes from where I teach. 
So what did we do in this fancypants jacuzzi suite? Well, we'd already had our fancy night out, and so we planned to get woodfired pizza takeout (there is no end to the delicious and safe gluten free food in my area) and chill out in the room. Maybe go swimming in the pool...but we had a late start from getting home from work and packing up and everything, so we canned the swimming. 

Instead, we immediately ordered the pizza and stopped off at a liquor store to get a half bottle of champagne. It's sort of a tradition to start any vacation (even a one-night one) with a glass or two of champagne from a little bottle. We've done it for every hotel we've stayed in for years now. So once that bubbly popped and the pizza was on the room's table, we knew we weren't going to go near the pool. 

The funny thing is, we had the most low-key time in this swanky suite possible. We don't have cable at home, and so we ate our pizza and drank our champagne to a marathon of "Tiny Houses," which I've never seen before and was strangely addictive and highly entertaining. We sort of vegged on the couch for a little bit, which seemed perfect after the insanely busy October we've both had. Holy hell, has it been nonstop. So it was lovely to just melt into the couch and mindless TV, champagne in hand. 

We did bring a special bottle of wine with us, that we had bought back in 2009 after we got engaged. Aptly named Carnival of Love, it's been in our basement ("cellar") for as long as we've been married, and the drink-by date ended with 2016 so it was a perfect pick! It was SO INCREDIBLY DELICIOUS. Almost smoky, and raisiny, closer to a port than a wine. I am embarrassed to say that I had a hard time opening it, and the foil cutting knife gave me a harder time than usual. When Bryce took over and just twisted it open, it turned out it was a screw-cap and I had just mutilated the heck out of it. Ooops.

Ah, Carnival of Love...and thank you, sir, for holding it.
Full size shot of the helper table guy we named Nebuchadnezzar, because it just seemed right. He was kind of staring down the bed, which was creepy, and also in the middle of the night it was off-putting to have some kneeling guy on the way to the bathroom. 
Once the wine was flowing we added to our HGTV and strange Halloween-themed travel and history shows (while Tiny Houses was fun, the rest reminded us why we DON'T have cable), the games came out. Because that's another tradition...whenever we go to Vermont, we bring games. 

This time I had a new one.

Bryce's puzzle. I am too embarrassed to show you mine, because I had a mistake in it...
Yes, that's a math version of Bananagrams, called Mobi. You have to make equations instead of words and when you're down to one tile you yell, "FLIP!" and everyone has to grab three more tiles until someone is out of tiles. When we play Bananagrams, Bryce HATES the "PEEL!" part, because he feels it takes too long to visualize the words and he gets under pressure and it makes him feel slow. Well, I now know how he feels because while my mind is fast with the words, it is NOT with the numbers. I mean, I did okay and had some nice complex thingies on mine (minus the error), but I had a zillion tiles left when he finished all his tiles. It was fun!  Also, you can see the scarred up screwcap in the upper right of the picture. Sigh. 

We followed this game up with Wine Wars, which is a nerdy trivia game about wine -- production, grapes, sommelier stuff, pairings, storing, blah blah blah. I won that one.

My winning board--I collected all the bottles in every category! 
Finally, the best sobriety test game ever...Memory. I don't have a picture of this one because it was getting late and my phone was being used for music, but it's a travel one with illustrated nature images. So there's luna moths, and hermit crabs, and bees on a flower, and kangaroos. It's the cutest game ever. I lost, though. Bryce holds his Carnival of Love better than me. 

Instead of swimming we took advantage of the jacuzzi. I sort of think it's a rule, right? If you have a jacuzzi in your room you HAVE to use it...or have a really good reason for not. It was very relaxing and I could pretend I was in a pool. Except instead I was in a bathroom the size of my living room. 

On Halloween itself we usually exchange Halloween cards, because we've done the anniversary ones on the 23rd. Last year we both gave each other mummy themed cards, which was strangely synchronized. Every year for four years now I get an Anniversary Ghoul -- a scary drawing from Bryce inside my card. It's fun to guess what it's going to be. The first one was a werewolf. The year after that was a Walking Dead zombie, very well done. Last year was a full color Pennywise from It. Which was TERRIFYING. 

This year? The front of my card was this: 

Inside it says, "I mean, BOO! What was I thinking?" HA HA HA
As soon as I saw the guy in the hat I knew. I KNEW WHAT MY GHOUL WAS GOING TO BE. 

Have you seen The Babadook? A film from Australia that is both smart and absolutely terrifying? Well, if you have, then you would think the same thing. 


And he was. As a POP UP, no less: 

AAAAA! Bryce is so talented, but AAAAA!
He popped up at me, and then I saw the background. Yeah, that's the view of our bedroom FROM OUR BED. So he's coming for me in my own space!!!! It was an excellent ghoul. SO UNSETTLING, especially because the pop-up feature is very accurate, but perfect. 

We gave out candy on Halloween, and basically had celebrated ourselves out. We made all FOUR trick-or-treaters happy with the full-sized candy bars we hand out to try to get a bigger crowd the following year (this is our fourth year doing that and still no dice). We ate pumpkin pasta bake with apple sausage. We had some wine. We watched a fabulous black and white horror movie (recent and foreign) called A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night. If you haven't seen it, give it a go. It's beautifully filmed. 

It was a perfect anniversary, really. A weeklong celebration of our marriage that we've kept strong through so many trials, a celebration of our foundation that we keep strong for the two of us and for that elusive Mystery Baby, wherever he or she may be.