Friday, June 30, 2017

Telling People Is Exhausting

Well, I ripped off the Facebook band-aid as well, on Wednesday. I have to say that I had absolutely no assvice, and people were so supportive and lovely. People came out of the woodwork who I don't know that well but knew marginally in high school, and were just amazing. People I just met in the past few years were also amazing. I feel the need to reply to every comment, which takes time and, because of the community we have around us, is extensive. I have received some private messages that are just beautiful, and some righteous fury on our behalf, fist-shaking at the universe. I am looking forward to the trickle of responses slowing to a drip and then nothing, and recouping from this. It's strangely (not so strangely) exhausting to have such an outpouring of support, to be in this loop of "this is where we are" and thanking people for their sadness, their anger, their thoughts of love and hope for the future.

I did make it pretty darn explicit about what would be helpful to say. One of my smartass friends who I love basically made her comment all of them, and then personalized. (It made me chuckle.)

Here it is, different in some ways from the school one, and longer, but with some things the same. I think mentioning the donation of our nursery really helps too with the assvice, because it makes it clear that this is irreversible, not a fluke, not a phase, but definitively: we are DONE.

I have always prided myself on putting everything out there on Facebook, of having an authentic presence that speaks to the joys and painful parts of life alike. I must confess though that when faced with one of the most difficult years of my life, I simply wasn't in a place to share my reality here. I continued being honest and raw on my blog, but filled my Facebook persona with flowers, family birthdays, teaching stuff, octopus pillows, and at times, absences. 

I am ready to share our reality publicly now, despite fears of judgment or comments that are often meant well but frankly hurt (which thankfully have been very few and far between in private sharing.) If you're searching for something to say, "I'm so sorry," "This sucks," "I'm here for you," and "I don't understand why these things happen" are all good options. 

We are no longer pursuing adoption. After nearly 8 years of trying for a baby, first medically and then through adoption, we hit our point of ENOUGH at great personal cost. After tremendous thought, conversation, and consideration we are resolving our journey childfree. We never imagined that our quest for parenthood would end without a child, but that is how this crappy cookie crumbled. 

We have so appreciated your love & support, and we ask you to abide with us as we venture out as a family of two -- our future different than we originally envisioned but so full of possibility, love, and happiness -- which helps us face this huge loss that we grieve deeply. 

Thank you to all who contributed to our nursery -- it was such a special, beautiful place of hope while it lasted. We donated everything to an organization that helps women who don't have support for unintended pregnancies -- our loss will be someone else's blessing and help another new family get a head start. 

Thank you so much and much love to you all. 

There. Done. Explicit, but not too explain-y. I stole words from you and your amazing advice. I am exhausted from living in this space so completely for a couple of days. Band-aids are ripped, I am oozy, but maybe getting this out there to almost everyone (may the grapevine do the rest until our holiday card comes out... heh heh heh what do with this one...) will start the turn from traumatized and raw to the beginnings of some scabbing over, the formulation of some wings in my gooey little chrysalis.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

How I Ripped Off the School Band-aid

I am pretty proud of myself for how I managed the email that I sent out to my school, informing the masses of the end of our quest for parenthood.

First, I sent it the day before the last day of school for teachers, mere minutes before we all went out to wave goodbye to the students leaving on buses and in cars. Heh heh heh, sneaky timing, as a lot of people leave right after that. This way, there'd be enough time to not drop a bomb and disappear in a poof of smoke, but not enough time that I'd have to deal with fallout for days. Just one day. Sneaky sneaky.

I decided to finally send my email after I found out that a few people had asked friends of mine this sort of thing: "Is it true that Jess isn't adopting anymore?" and so I thought, well, these are the ballsy people (but not ballsy enough to ask me directly, although one person did do that in the hall about two weeks ago) many people might be wondering and at what point am I comfortable being shady corner-of-the-stairwell gossip? Really, at no point am I good with being gossip fodder. Best that it comes from me, no matter what it is.

So, I sent it. And it looked like this, with the heading "Thank You [Name of My Middle School] Family:"

Hi [Name of my Middle School],

It has meant so much to me and to Bryce to have such an outpouring of support from everyone as we fought for nearly 8 years to have a family. We have been amazed by the love, empathy, and hugs we have received. 

This has been an incredibly difficult year, and as some of you may already know, after a great deal of thought and consideration we have ended our journey to expand our family. We never expected that our journey would end without a child. As we grieve this loss, we know that it is the right decision for us -- to let go of the life we envisioned and fought so hard for at great personal cost so that we can live the life we have built together despite all this adversity. 

I read a beautiful book about surviving loss, The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy, and in it she says, "Everyone doesn't get everything." We have so, so much, and while this is a terrible loss, we can celebrate everything we do have in each other. 

I am so lucky to teach here at [Name of my Middle School], to be a part of this family that takes care of each other we're down. I appreciate your love and support now as we move onward to this new, unexpected life adventure as a family of two. 

Thank you and much love, 
Jess and Bryce

PS - We thank everyone contributed to our nursery, which was such a special, beautiful place of hope while it lasted. We donated everything to an organization that helps women who don't have support for unintended pregnancies -- our loss will be someone else's blessing and help another new family get a head start.

Not bad, eh? I don't think I overshared (there is that ominous "great personal cost," and I still felt the need to slap a number of years onto our suffering, but whatever), and I think I made it pretty clear that this was a firm decision  and we were looking for support, not talking out of/fixing.

It went pretty well, all things considered. I had one person hug me and whisper in my ear "International Adoption is always an option..." (she adopted internationally a decade and a half ago), and I managed to accept her hug and say, "We researched that option, thank you" and leave it at that. People always think that their way is the best way. This time I didn't have anyone tell me "oh but you'd make such a great mother!" (ouch, because I'm not ever going to get to be one) and no one suggested that we try foster care adoption, either (again, researched that one). I had someone tell me how much she appreciated that I let everyone in on this journey, how eye opening it was and how privileged she felt to be a part of it. I had a coworker who is also the parent of one of my students cry and tell me that "It's not the same, I know it's not the same, but you are a mother to every one of those kids that comes through your room. This is what you're meant to do, and you have so much love for these kids -- including mine." I usually hate the "your students are your kids though!" band-aid slapped on teacher infertility, but in this case I didn't mind at all because she acknowledged that it wasn't the same but that it is a way to mother. And I'd been thinking earlier this year about how I could direct my mothering energy just towards my students (which, honestly, I already do, poor things). I got hugs, and sweet emails, and a couple "You are so strong"s, which I didn't deflect because I should own that. Yeah, I'm strong. Thank you. 

There. That band-aid is ripped off and it wasn't too terribly painful. Now it's done and I don't have to talk about it at school if I don't want to anymore. Hopefully people respect that. 

Now for the facebook band-aid...that one is more daunting. I think I may actually include some of the things that aren't helpful since there are some people who are real good at assvice (OMG, thank you Loribeth, x2, for this word and for introducing me to Ariel Levy's book, among other things). I know it all comes from a pretty benign place but jeezum people can really stick a lemon wedge in my oozy wounds with careless or well-meaning but hurtful words.

Thank you for all the advice, real advice not assvice (I swear I'm going to use that as much as humanly possible). Your support helps me make sense of things that are hard to make sense of, and helps me to not be so much of my own worst enemy. Repeat after me, Me: I Will Not TEll Everyone I Had A Bit Of A Mental Breakdown. I Will Not Make Excuses or Justify. I Will Just Say We Are No Longer Pursuing Adoption And Please Support Us In Our New Adventure As A Twosome. 

I can do it, right? Probably not today. But tomorrow. Tomorrow I will rip off the final band-aid.

Monday, June 26, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: Summer is HERE

Ah, the first Monday of summer.

It is glorious to not set an alarm clock; to still be in pajamas when Bryce leaves for work; to sit on the couch and read with my coffee. Today was sort of a boring day leading into summer vacation -- I did several loads of laundry, scrubbed out our kitchen sink and the dish drying rack that had gotten rather scungy, went to get my face waxed (oh PCOS, how you torment me), had a chiropractor appointment and then a therapy appointment. But, I finished my book (The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater, book four in The Raven Cycle, which is PHENOMENAL and I highly recommend), took a nap, talked on the phone with my best friend, and bought some perennials and hanging baskets at a farm stand before a crazy thunderstorm came and showered everything with small hail. It was a beautiful day, actually.

I keep lists in the summer to remind me both of what I want to accomplish and of what I actually did, so I don't fritter away the time too much as I attempt to melt into summer and then get some productivity going for house projects and prepping for next year. I checked most of the things off today, which felt good.

This week, though -- this week is all about relaxing and recuperating from a year that was difficult in so many different ways, and celebrating that I survived it.

One of my favorite spots to sit and read and enjoy the day. Can you see my friend to the left? It's a Painted Lady who came to visit and sun itself! 

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

Monday, June 19, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: How To Tell People You're Not Adopting Anymore

Wouldn't it be great if I had the answer to this unpleasant business?

Sadly, I don't.

I do a MISERABLE job telling people our news, and I've been doing it at an incredibly slow and excruciating rate of about 4-6 people per week, give or take two people.

The problem is, I feel the need to justify why every time I spill the beans, and so I end up telling people all about my autoimmune eye problems and my mental breakdown and I really don't think that's necessary. I should be able to just say, "We are no longer pursuing adoption -- it didn't work out for us" and leave it at that.

But instead I list out everything, I feel the need to say how long we did IVF before, and how incredibly hard everything was--as though I am convincing myself of the merit of our decision, too. I end up sounding a little loose in the screw department and a lot like, "See? This is the right decision, I can prove it, we did SO MUCH to try to have a baby and in the end it took over everything and had major health impacts and we chose to live a life not in stasis anymore...see? See how much it makes sense?"

I even practiced with a friend today, in anticipation of being asked for updates at the retirement party after school (no one asked, which was both a relief and a concern), "We are not pursuing adoption anymore and that's all I'd like to say about it for now." There's no way I'll actually succeed at saying just that, so I'm grateful no one asked but also worried it means a) people know through the grapevine but are quiet about it or b) people are tired of asking how it's going and not getting a good prognosis.

I feel like I need to just rip that bandaid off, go "Facebook Official" on the damn thing and send an email out to my school thanking everyone for their support but in case they haven't already heard, we are done with our family building escapades.

I am just so nervous about the possible fallout, of being accused of "giving up on my dream," of being told I wasn't meant to be a parent, of facing questions again of why we aren't pursuing a different kind of adoption (especially foster). But this creeping trickle of "hey, just wanted to let you know if you haven't already heard..." is killing me slowly.

I think this week is bandaid-ripping time.

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

Monday, June 12, 2017

#Microblog Monday: Honeymoon

I was mortified when I realized that last week was our 11th date-o-versary, eleven years since we kissed on a bench on our first date, and we acknowledged it NOT AT ALL. I totally forgot until Sunday, when I was getting a massage and talking about how Bryce and I met.

I guess we've had some heavy things on our minds, so we can be forgiven just this once.

One of the less heavy things is the planning of our amazing trip to the California Coast, which I am calling our honeymoon. Literally, when reserving our room in the hotel we're spending the most time in and it asked for a reason for our stay, I saw "Honeymoon" and was like, YES. That's right -- this is our GODDAMN HONEYMOON. We started infertility stuff before our wedding. The weekend I visited my best friend and wrote the letter where I proposed to Bryce, I was reading The Conception Chronicles, because I wanted to know what I was going to face as we knew we'd have trouble conceiving (trouble, ha ha HA ha ha). The day of our ceremony in the backyard, I signed for Ovidrel in my wedding dress. It's been CONSTANT.

So yeah, this is our honeymoon, the start of our new life just us two, a celebration of our love and ability to endure through pain and loss and heartbreak galore with our relationship strong and adoring.

We decided to do the California Coast -- flying into San Francisco, going to Napa for a few days, then going to Carmel-by-the-Sea for some Monterey Aquarium and Big Sur action, then down to Pasadena so we can visit with my dad, then back up to Santa Barbara for romantic beachy nature time, and then back to San Francisco, two weeks from when we flew in, to head home.

It's a crazy road trip with real romantic inns and views and activities planned.

Happy Honeymoon to us --  it doesn't make up for what we've lost, but it's quite the consolation prize and we are fortunate to be able to do it, using some of the money that was earmarked for adoption. Bittersweet poetic justice in that, but this is what we've got. And I am SO looking forward to it (even though a chunk of Highway 1 recently fell into the ocean...which isn't concerning at all...). After years of stagnance, a bit of extravagance is lovely to plan.

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

Sunday, June 11, 2017

My Space, Haunted By Ghosts

I bought a lamp this weekend.

Isn't that exciting? The thrills of my life lately.

It actually IS exciting, as it was a bit of a splurge and I just love the details in it, and it is part of the continual transformation of the upstairs little room into MY space, MY room.

It's got branches! And it's three-way, so soft light to bright light options.
It hurts even to say that, MY room, instead of The Baby's Room. Even though no baby actually lived here, and no baby actually existed that was kinda-sorta-definitely going to be ours, it's a hard thing to think of this room as something else, something other than what we'd planned for it to be.

I bought the lamp where we bought our living room furniture, and I'm looking for a piece to go where the crib was, something with some closed storage so I can move some of my craft supplies up from the basement where they languish fairly ill-attended. The shop owner was asking what kind of space I had, what kind of furniture finishes I had, and all I could manage was, "Well, it's a 90-square foot space, real small. It used to be another kind of room and now it's...not. I would like it to look as different as possible from what it was before."

I didn't tell her what it was before. I didn't feel like it. I felt the dark hole opening up inside me though, and a shadow overtook me and followed me the rest of the day.

For as beautiful as the room is becoming, it's going to take a while to think of it as a rebranded space. The ghost of What-Could-Have-Been lingers, and will be somewhat exorcised when my desk arrives on Tuesday and I can find a piece to go where the crib once was.

Things like this make it hard:

Creepy stuffed animals looking down on me. The owl on the left is a puppet, the barn owl I just love, the elephant was a gift from my grandmother, and the teddy bear is a really nice soft classic thing from a retired social studies teacher. I donated the rest, but these I wanted to keep. Maybe.
Do I donate them? Hang on to them somewhere a bit less visible? I am still filling the shelves in here, deciding what to put where. You can see this cast of characters from the street. Maybe it's not the best idea to keep them here.

But then there's the chaise lounge corner, which is turning out quite cozy (need one more pillow though, not quite right yet): 

I found the owl print at Target. It isn't nursery-like, but there were owls in here for a reason and I really, really liked this one. It reminds me of something my grandfather once had, I think. My memory is fuzzy on this one but it called to me and was the only one in the store, so I bought it...

Coy little thing.
And lastly, I hung this cat bell that my father gave me, I think from Japan, above the weird raised cat sculpture print we bought at a Renaissance Faire a few years ago: 

I always sort of envisioned an Owl & Pussycat theme in here, but then it became the Treetop Friends stuff on the bedding with birds, and so I sort of abandoned it. Well, happy Owl & Pussycat office theme. It is super cozy. 

And also sad. 

I am real, real sad tonight. I am struggling today, which is totally normal given the loss sustained. The shifting of our house to spaces that fit the life we actually have, not the one we wanted so much that just didn't come to fruition. The reorganizing, realizing I have all these things I was saving for our children and don't know what to do with anymore (jewelry from my childhood, books from my childhood, things I just don't know what to do with now that there's no next generation to gift them to). 

I am looking forward to the arrival of my desk and bookshelf Tuesday. I am looking forward to closing out this space and making it mine, all mine. It is a healing thing, but hard, so hard. I've vacuumed several times since we disassembled this room from what it was, and in doing so erased the marks from the feet of the crib. Except for one, which I can see has survived, next to the baseboard. A tiny impression of what once was, what was hoped, and what now belongs to someone who can actually use it. 

Transition is hard. Making this space over into a beautiful reading and writing sanctuary helps. Still, I am plagued by the ghosts of what will never be. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Gift of Failure

I was driving home from school today when I heard this story on NPR: "Total Failure: The Mountain That Got Away." (You can listen or read via the link.)

The message stuck with me and kept me in the car, rapt.

It was about a competitive mountain climber, Emily Harrington, and how she'd spent her whole life focusing on winning competitions, on summitting mountains, on being the best and finishing no matter what.

Except she did this one climb, in Myanmar, up Hkakabo Razi. It was a hairy journey just to get to the ridge that led to summit, and she found herself exhausted, food stores low, facing the choice to keep climbing and face death as a consequence, or stop and let it go.

The piece had these lines that spoke to me now, in the midst of abandoning my own uphill struggle:

"But she was exhausted and stretched to the limits of her skill as a climber. She felt that if she went on, she might not make it down. 

'It wasn't my time to keep climbing,' she says.

She turned around. And giving up? It may have been the best thing she ever did. Not just because she didn't fall to her death. 

High up on that ridge, she really understood that life wasn't so simple. There were wrong turns, bad weather and bad luck that were beyond her control. It was OK to give up." 

Could that be more perfect right now or what?

Some things are beyond your control. A lesson I seem completely unable to truly grasp onto and solidify for myself. As I occasionally sit here and get all morose in a sea of what-ifs, of examining all of our decisions (What if we'd gotten a second opinion before doing donor eggs? What if we'd gone to CCRM earlier? What if we'd moved forward with adoption sooner? What if someone could have picked us in June, had we not pulled the plug a bit early?), I have to remember that it doesn't matter how many wrong turns were taken, how many series of unfortunate events occurred so that we found ourselves almost on the trail to the peak, but without any more food, too exhausted to trust our footing, and unsure of health (physical and mental) if we were to continue.

Life isn't so simple as Prepare, Train, Do, Succeed. I wish it was.

I love this article because it doesn't extol the NeverNeverNEVER Give Up mentality that is so prevalent. It acknowledges that sometimes, giving up is necessary in order to continue on. That you can learn from that lesson of "This didn't work out for me" or even failure, which I hate using as a synonym for our experience, but it's true...we failed at having a child through every single means that we tried. I feel a little like we failed adoption, but I know that isn't true. Our infertility history going into adoption made every bump in the road feel like a mountain. We'd spent so much time getting to the mountain base that we had no energy to get to the summit after it wasn't quite as straightforward as we thought it was going to be.

So we let go of our dream, when it started to consume us and our health became collateral damage. We let go so that we could keep on climbing another day, on a different mountain. So that we could accept that some things are out of our control, and things don't always go the way you hope or plan. But there is always space for a new plan, a new adventure. (Probably not actually mountain climbing because I am terrified of heights, which is probably going to be an issue when we're driving the Pacific Coast Highway this summer...)

Here's to failure. Here's to knowing when to stop even when it is hard and against all of your work ethic philosophy to do so, but you are literally running yourself into the ground trying over and over and finding no success. Here's to all the new adventures that lie ahead, because we let this one go after a long slog of wrong turns and mishaps that seemed neverending. We did our best, and now we move on -- we'll carry our loss with us but we'll be able to move forward, up another mountain, towards another future that we'll figure out together.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Oh, Okay...So NOW It's Final

I was smacked in the face with the finality of our decision, of our outcome in this whole family building thing on Tuesday, when the woman who provides things to women who are pregnant without it being the preferred option as they start their new lives as parents came to pick up the contents of our nursery, of our kitchen drawer, of our back room storage area.

It was overwhelming. The giant pile of things, of hope, of all the love and support, everything we had for a baby so very wanted and so very hoped for...gone. She teared up as she saw just how much we had to donate, and hugged me and told me how sorry she was that things turned out this way.

I helped her load up her car, and then mine when it became apparent that not only would it take several trips otherwise but that the crib was definitely not going to fit in her car, ever. She hadn't wanted me to do anything, but I didn't feel right sitting on the couch while she loading everything up, and additionally my neighbors decided that this was the perfect time to hang out on the street and have a chat and I felt a little like there was a bit of a spectacle. Having some strange lady taking baby stuff out of our house and into her car without me would probably be stranger than me trying to look cheerful while helping.

Trying. At one point when I offered to help drive stuff she said, "you probably just want this over as fast as possible" and I teared up and said "I just can't look at it all sitting here anymore." And then I cried the entire way home, after we unloaded my car first and she said she'd unload her car, that I could absolutely go and take care of myself.

I am pretty sure that this was the hardest day. It felt worse than any of the other days that have peppered this journey to nowhere. The absence was overwhelming.

I figured out what it is. It's truly, absolutely over. Even if I was like, "WAIT! Let's reopen our homestudy!" (which I'm not), we have no baby gear anymore. We have made our decision and it is final with a capital F. There's no going back. We are definitely resolving our journey childfree. Right now it feels a lot like childless, since I had all these things for a child who existed in my heart, and now that dream is gone. It shifts and morphs between the two -- childless which to me captures the loss, childfree which captures the empowerment of a life that, once we scab over the rawness, will be full of other dreams, other possibilities. Even if it wasn't our desired landing spot.

It reminds me of my uterine surgery -- once that was over, I had absolutely zero chance of getting pregnant, ever. It was pretty close to zero before, but there was no going back, no deciding to reopen the treatment route, no way to have a spontaneous pregnancy "miracle." At first it made me sad, but I was so done with the treatment aspect of things and of birth control that made my body go nuts that I embraced the finality. It came after almost two years of knowing that IVF wasn't ever going to work for me, though. It came after trying other things and having them not work, and then saying, "Okay, uterus, I'm done with you. I'm locking this door and throwing away the key." It was a relief. It frees me to not be as sad when others get pregnant, because that's no longer an option for me whatsoever. I've let it go entirely.

Donating the baby gear is similar, but it happened at warp speed. We only made this decision a month and a half ago, really. I haven't had time to acclimate. Having a nursery you know you aren't going to use is painful, on a daily basis, the kind that saps you slowly. Donating everything all in one day and loading it all up and getting it out in a space of about an hour is excruciatingly painful, but then it's gone. Then the healing can start. Then the empty space in the living room that held the pile of things can be replaced with new furniture, a reading nook where my desk used to be since now my desk is where the nursery used to be. (Well, sort-of-desk. Still the plywood setup.)

I feel like everything is a series of Before and After pictures.

So much stuff. This pile goes about eight feet from one side to the other. 
After I got home and it was all gone. Strangely like the decal-free wall upstairs.

But it's also a series of transformations. That space was only empty for so long before we filled it with a rearranged, new-furniture setup in our living room. A living room that doesn't need space for a pack-n-play, a living room that can have light colored upholstery because there won't be any little sticky fingers wielding markers here. But it's cozy, and each new thing is a step towards embracing this new life we have ahead of us. The After we can look forward to that has a duller sort of pain, and a new kind of promise.

Not empty anymore.
So much seating now! 
It feels good to have change, to have movement, to have things not stay the same anymore. It's a soothing balm on the raw ooziness of letting our dream go.