Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Belief, Frustration, and Accomplishment


The other day Bryce, his mom, and me were in one of our favorite home-wares shops in Rochester, when we saw a farmhouse-style sign that said, printed in simple font on rustic linen: 
"Believe you can and you're halfway there" 
- Theodore Roosevelt. 

Sometimes it is exhausting seeing everything from the lens of infertility and loss. I read it aloud, and at the same time that Bryce's mom said, "Ooooh, I like that!" he said, "NOPE. Don't like it. Not at all." It seemed confusing that such an inspirational saying would rub us the wrong way, but I explained (and received a super hairy eyeball from a nice older lady who was walking through that part of the shop at that time) that it perpetuates the idea that you can BELIEVE yourself into any situation, that if you BELIEVE strong enough, you will always get what you seek. And that is NOT always the case. 

But I struggle when I explain these things, because don't I want to teach belief in yourself, perseverance, the value of hard work, etc. etc. etc.? Isn't that counter to what I want to do as a teacher of adolescent people? Nope, it's not.

You could look at that quote and say, "Believe you can and you're halfway there" -- that's not a guarantee that you'll get ALL the way there, that just puts you on the path to getting to the destination. And when I think about it that way it doesn't irk me half as much. If the quote is meant to get your ass off the couch and start doing something you want to do instead of thinking you can't and so never getting started, well then that's a positive message. But if it's saying that pure belief will get you to your goals, well then I do believe that's hooey. 

There's a lot of stuff out there about the Law Of Attraction, and putting out into the Universe what you want to get in, trusting that the Universe will reward your belief with what you seek. That you shouldn't put fears and doubt and negativity out there, because that is what will return to you. Someone once said that I should be careful talking about my fear of killers, because of the Law of Attraction. That is some serious balderdash, in my (non-slaughtered) opinion. It reminds me so much of the cult of infertility way of thinking, of the belief that you must be positive at all costs because even a smidge of negativity could impact your egg quality or transfer. I suppose that's great if you are Positive Polly and then you get pregnant, but if you (gasp!) have a negative thought during the process because you've been faced with nothing but disappointment and then it doesn't work, again, was it really because you thought briefly, "What if this doesn't work out this time?" Isn't that just a form of self-torture, designed to put the guilt and the blame solely on your already battered psyche? 

Don't get me wrong, I am all for putting positive vibes out into the Universe, and doing good for the sake of doing good, and trying to take a shit sandwich and make it a unique culinary treat. But I get really, really mad when people make it seem that simply putting an intent out there will make it more likely that you will get what you seek. If what you seek is something that you can truly attain with hard work and perseverance, well then that's fine -- you're never going to get work published that you never submit, you're never going to get more fit if you don't go work out, you're never going to meet your goal of reading so many books this summer if every time you go to read you pick up your phone instead. 

Conversely though, I could have never believed myself into a biological baby. I suppose I could have stayed in the adoption game longer and believed myself into a baby that way, but I would have also believed myself into a true nervous breakdown and might have made decisions based on wanting a baby that put us into a situation that perhaps we weren't prepared to handle. If I was terminally ill, I could use belief to fight for the treatment and the quality of life that I wanted, and I could decide that I was going to see myself as living with a terminal illness as opposed to dying from one, but it wouldn't likely change the eventual end result. 


While recouping from this nasty stomach nonsense I have going on, I decided to do a puzzle. Not just any puzzle, a mini-puzzle, 100 pieces, 6" x 9" when completed, from Acadia National Park. I chose the lighthouse one first (it's a set of two), and it was PERFECT. 

I know I've said before that I can't stand puzzles, that I want to like them but my compulsiveness makes it so that I have to finish it all in one sitting if at all possible and it's incredibly hard to leave it, so I spend HOURS and I am largely frustrated most of the time and wishing I had just picked up a book instead. That is all true. But I discovered something recently...

I love SMALL puzzles. Maybe mini ones that are 100 pieces, maybe a big one that's 300, but ones that are JUST CHALLENGING ENOUGH. 

I feel like so much in my life is frustrating, and has filled me with frustration, why on EARTH would I do that to myself on purpose? It's also why I hate watching intense movies -- life is intense and stressful enough, why would I purposely want to put my nerves on edge? For FUN? 

After I did the lighthouse one, I went on to the next one in the box -- a far more challenging stream-with-rocks scene. It was way more difficult. But, I also knew it was finite. There were only 100 pieces. It was only going to be 6" x 9" when completed. It was JUST THE RIGHT amount of frustration. And I did it, although I finished it this morning since I ran out of time last night: 

I was sort of high on this success, and so I decided maybe I would try my 300 piece puzzle that I bought last time I went down to visit my best friend -- this one is a full size puzzle, but the pieces are bigger, and it makes me so happy because the picture is 36 reptiles and amphibians.

I think maybe that was too much puzzling at once though, because I ran into a different kind of frustration -- the coffee table I was doing it on was not quite big enough to hold the whole edge. Also, there was this: 

Still, I managed to get the edges done despite certain constraints: 

But then it was just all too much.

All of the pieces crashed to the ground and I decided perhaps that was Lucky's way of telling me that I should perhaps try to do something a little more productive since two weeks from today I'll be back at school. 


The thing is, frustration is necessary in order to feel accomplished. I like the feeling when you find the right piece and slide it into that spot -- sometimes more if I had to try it in a few different orientations first. If it was TOO easy, it wouldn't feel worthwhile. 

These puzzles are perfect though -- hard enough to not be completed in 5 minutes, but not so hard that I'm swearing and wasting half a day but don't feel that I can give it up and go read on the couch because it's not done yet. 

It's an enjoyable frustration. Just enough. 

In order to accomplish things in life, you need belief and you need frustration. Belief that you can get started in the first place, that this accomplishment is yours to chase. Frustration to make it worth the pursuit, to remind you that the hard work will be worth it. I am all for these things. 

But, some accomplishments require more than just belief and the ability to push through frustration. And sometimes, all the belief and perseverance in the world will not get you to the accomplishment you desired, and so you have to do the hard work of rearranging your pursuits. Of saying, "okay, this particular goal isn't going to work out for me, so I need to find a new one." You are still believing that you deserve to push yourself towards a goal. You are still fighting through frustration, but not to a point that doesn't make sense or is unhealthy. And I could argue that the sense of accomplishment is amplified by the fact that you didn't get what you originally sought. 

Monday, August 20, 2018

#Microblog Mondays: Ah, I Misunderstood

I have been fighting stomach bug/food poisoning issues for around 5 days now, which is extraordinarily aggravating, especially since it coincided with a lovely visit from Bryce's parents (mom and stepdad, we both say "parents" and mean either set/entity of our divorced parents). Thursday was the kickoff with some spectacular violent vomiting after bone-in chicken bbq that PERHAPS wasn't quite done in the middle, followed by 24 hours of chills, full-body aches, malaise, and a general feeling that I was both going to die and could be a real-world pandemic Patient Zero. But then I was fine Saturday, went about things like normal, and Sunday morning was good too...but Sunday afternoon's pizza dinner didn't sit well and I felt nauseous again and unsettled, but this time the violent purging was southerly, accompanied by pain, and it just keeps on plaguing me.

I went to the doctor today, because a) I wanted to make sure I didn't have a pandemic, b) a friend suggested maybe if I thought I had food poisoning I should get checked out because it could have issues needing addressing, and c) I had started running through the lists of Things That Could Kill Me (but probably won't): Appendicitis, ovarian cancer, burst organ of some kind, bleeding ulcer, new pandemic not quite yet identified by the CDC... a doctor's visit will usually stop the endless spiral of maladies I can imagine.

He found me tender in the lower right (scary, appendix area) but also not super sharp and I've been having what I thought was ovary pain for a little while, so that doesn't match, but he sent me for bloodwork and said that if I felt AT ALL like the pain was getting worse or I was getting a fever to hightail it to an ER for a CT Scan with contrast to make sure my appendix wasn't trying to kill me.

Believe it or not, that was actually very comforting, because I doubt that's it and now I have a clear If This, Then That scenario to deal with.

However, when I went to get bloodwork, I had to give a urine sample, and I got called back while still dealing with that clean-catch awkwardness, and then waited patiently with my paper-towel-wrapped pee sample until they called me back again (thank you, other lady waiting, for that trick to not have to look at or otherwise display your nitrogenous waste before others in the waiting area).

The lady who took my blood was super nice, and said, "Oh, only two vials today, all these stickers for two vials!" to which I said, "ugh, so glad it's not more, sometimes it seems endless," and she replied, "Well just you wait missy, looks like you'll be coming back for more here depending on results." I just sat there, thinking to myself, when they check your white blood cell count do they typically tell you you'll be back? What the eff? Why is this lady looking forward to me coming back to follow up on appendicitis, or maybe cancer? I am SO CONFUSED.

I was still confused when I got up to leave and she said, "Well you have a good day, and I'm just positive I'll be seeing you real soon here!"

It wasn't until after I left the lab and was walking down the hall that it clicked for me. OHHHHHHH. One of the pee tests was an HCG, and she wasn't talking about me coming back to check white blood cells, she was thinking I WAS PREGNANT. Oh man. I laughed, and LAUGHED, and LAUGHED (and then wondered if the tummy troubles had me suspiciously bloated).

Oh, no, nice lady. And she WAS a nice lady, not one gleefully awaiting my return to check for anemia or infection. I took Mali's advice and when I saw the HCG Beta on my lab slip I remembered that she said ALWAYS keep it in case it's ectopic, which is an even less likely event in my mind than an apocalyptic bird flu, but with my body? You just never know.

I had to laugh, because it didn't even cross my mind that she might think I was a hopeful maybe-pregnant person...and I had to feel proud, because it didn't make me feel sad.

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

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Surviving Failure, Redefining Success

One of the things that frustrated me most about my infertility struggles was the insistence that it WOULD work out, that it COULD work out (insert all the many examples of improbable pregnancies and births here, followed by miracle adoption stories), that if I just HUNG IN THERE that all would be revealed and I'd get to be the mother I was clearly meant to be.

These encouragements are lovely in theory, usually given by practitioners and people who have succeeded ahead of you. They've seen it happen! Don't give up! You just need to stay in the game! But are they lovely, REALLY? Are they as helpful as they seem initially?

I was reminded of this by Risa's post on Moving Forward After Failure, and rather than tell my own story of surviving loss of many kinds in her comments, I decided to write my own post on the topic.

Because my story is filled with failure. After failure. After failure. Exponential failure. Loss after loss. But I survived it, and while my outcome wasn't what I dreamed of initially and by all accounts I failed MISERABLY throughout the whole process of trying to become a parent, I did succeed in other ways. I succeeded by not succumbing to my failure, by learning how not to internalize it, by redefining what "success" means for myself. 

A Series of Unfortunate Events
From the beginning we were told that we should just start with IVF, but that just seemed so DRASTIC, like starting swimming lessons with a cliff dive.  So we eased in with clomid, and then injectible IUIs, and I learned that yeah -- IVF was our best option. My PCOS revealed itself in all its glory -- I was capable of making a LOT of follicles, given a higher dose. Our sperm counts were pretty dismal for IUI, but perfectly reasonable for IVF. So we plunged. 

Given all the encouragement for IVF, given all the stories on TTC chatboards and forums, I fully expected that I would get pregnant from my first cycle and have some frozen embryos left over for a sibling. So it was shocking when I didn't have any frozen embryos, when only a couple survived to day three, and then the two that were transferred weren't amazing. And it failed. I was stunned. Each phone call was another whittling of my hope -- first not a lot of eggs were mature, then not a lot fertilized, then none were going to be frozen, then the ones that were left were okay. And then, of course, the "I'm sorry, it's negative" call that immediately schedules your next cycle. 

That was when I started going to a support group, that was when I started this blog, that was when I realized, hmmm. This is going to be harder than I thought

The next cycle had the whittling too, despite all the yoga and the acupuncture and the visualizing. It didn't work, either. 

So we switched doctors at the clinic, and switched protocols from PCOS-based to an egg quality focus, with much better results -- we had frozens! And I got a call, although not quite the one I'd wanted -- "I'm sorry, it's positive but it's very low." Ah, a caveat. I spent two and a half weeks hoping against hope that this was just a rough-and-tumble beginning to our family story, and then it all ended when the fancy 3D ultrasound machine showed that my baby was more like a tumor that was trying to end me. That was hard to move forward from, because the physical pain was so great in recovery and the craziness of it all just enveloped everything. BUT, I had hope for the next cycle, because my doctor had said that this showed I could actually get pregnant. It was possible. 

Except when we did our next cycle in December, with frozen blasts, it didn't work. I examined everything I could have possibly done to cause this -- had I microwaved things in plastic? Had I microwaved food at all? Was it the nonorganic spinach in the chickpea stew? Was it the gut-wrenching crying during the wait because I'd had to put my cat to sleep? I was in a terrible state of grief. What if that was all I got, just a weird surgical end to a brief pregnancy that could never be a baby? I threw myself into another cycle right away, and upped all the supplements and acupuncture and meditation and yoga and wheatgrass and candle lighting and onesie-buying. 

The next fresh cycle didn't work. But it did make frozens. Which made it easier to take the horrible disappointment of another failure, because a new opportunity could be had faster, cheaper, easier on my body. Maybe THIS would be our chance. 

And it was -- we got a personal call from my doctor (the first one, as the second one had left for another practice) on a Saturday morning to tell me that I was PREGNANT, and the numbers were good (although later I realized they still weren't super robust), and it was CELEBRATION TIME! Celebrate we did, because I was going to milk this pregnancy for every single nanosecond. I was thrilled, for two whole weeks. 

But then I began cramping in the parking lot of my grandmother's assisted living apartment complex, and I ignored it because it was just expansion, it HAD to be, because this was IT, this was the moment we'd been waiting for, and NOTHING bad could happen because I'd done everything so very right this time. Except a trip to the bathroom revealed that I was actually bleeding, and the cramping was harder to ignore, and I had to tell my grandmother that I was both pregnant and likely miscarrying all in one hysterical, apologetic breath as I rushed to the clinic without an appointment, after their phone system was done for the day but before everyone had left, and begged for help. I saw a tiny sac, which gave everyone hope, and I was put on bed rest and kept my hips above my nose as much as I could until I got the call that my bloodwork had gone down 2000 points (so abrupt that we repeated it, because maybe it was an error! Maybe a rushed tech had left a zero off!). It was over. 

I didn't know how to recover from that one. It was the worst pain I'd felt at that point in things. I'd been so close, and now it was gone. What if this wasn't going to happen? What if I was irreparably broken? A friend stopped by to drop off orchid food and heard me keening on the couch. I went back and forth between animal sobbing/gulping and complete numbness, staring at the air between me and other objects and trying to figure out how I would ever get past this. I was a mess, but that was expected. I was shocked that we could get so close and then lose it so quickly. 

But, I dealt with it by pushing myself forward. Something had to change. I was NOT going to give in so easily. The NEXT one would work, particularly because I was going to pursue egg donor. It couldn't go wrong, my mid-thirties eggs would be out of the picture and we'd be sure to see success. I threw myself into all the preparations, and I asked people who'd been successful with egg donor what their protocols were, and I took all the advice and I even did progesterone in oil shots twice per day, resulting in permanent nerve damage and having to take the shots in my thigh, and still... a fresh and a frozen cycle failed. FAILED. I felt like a failure. I felt like there was no way this could be happening. Family and close friends began to ask us, "when do you decide to stop? Maybe it's time." But the fertility world was all about KEEP GOING AND DON'T GIVE UP! YOU'RE SO CLOSE! And I listened to that siren song, I listened to tales of people getting pregnant on their 11th cycle with their last frozen embryo or finally getting pregnant after 8 years of trying because of washing out their uterus with a chemotherapy drug, or sperm donor being the trick, or donated embryos being the trick... there was always a trick. And I WANTED there to be a trick. I NEEDED to throw myself into all possible options. I HAD to have a baby, and was willing to do nearly anything to have one. 

So we reevaluated. We had already gone to an adoption seminar at an agency that made it sound impossible and listed all the things that counted as red flags (and we had a zillion of them), and we felt that we would never be placed with a baby given that doom and gloom presentation, so assisted reproduction was going to have to be our path. Egg donor hadn't done it. So we got a bunch of second opinions, and everyone said that it was likely then the sperm, or maybe even my uterus. Clearly it wasn't my eggs, because egg donor hadn't fixed it. 

We went to the clinic our second doctor left for, and did all kinds of crazy things. I had more hysteroscopies. I had biopsies. I had the horrible Beta 3 Integrin test, that was like having someone run a vegetable peeler down my uterus while I was FULLY AWAKE AND UNSEDATED, and it revealed...nothing. Apparently my endometrium was perfectly receptive. My first cycle ended up cancelled -- my estrogen went way too high and when they tried to dial it back it crashed. But the second cycle was great and we ended up with blasts from our own material -- but it didn't work. Which was very sad and awful, but we had frozens with donor sperm so that was something to look forward to. And then THAT didn't work (or maybe it did briefly, as I did a home pee stick and it showed a faint line that then disappeared -- was it evaporation, or was it a brief chemical? I don't know but the result was the same). 

This is when the failure really hit me hard. Clearly SOMETHING was wrong, and we couldn't figure it out, and I was tired, so so so tired of making this the central thing in my life. I had experienced ten transfers, 27 embryos had come and gone, and I just felt like a physical embodiment of failure. I tried so many things, and here I was, at the end of the options, with no one giving me a straight answer about WHY, and my heart just wasn't in it anymore. I couldn't bear to keep doing this. I knew the end was nigh. 

So we decided to transfer our frozens, 2PNs from the egg donor cycle first, then the two blasts from sperm donor. Then we could be done. And then my cycles were canceled, TWICE, and I lay crying on the table, after white-knuckling a drive through a freaking blizzard to get to Buffalo for an ultrasound, and I just kept saying "I...can't...DO THIS...ANYMOOOOOOORE" through my sobs. I felt abused. I felt brutally emptied from the inside out, physically and spiritually. I just couldn't give it any more. 

Moving Forward, Away from Infertility Treatment
So we moved forward to adoption, with so much hope in our hearts that it would be different. We joked that we'd slowly shed ties to genetic material throughout our journey, so we were utterly prepared to decide to raise a child who had zero genetic ties to us, and who we did not gestate. We researched. We completed all the homestudy requirements. We soul searched. We gave ourselves fully to this process, which took my body completely out of the equation and instead took up space in a binder, in a somewhat unhealthy relationship with the phone, and in our emotional well-being. 

I had talked to other people who were successful before us, and they received profile calls within a couple months, and then received them regularly. 

We received none in six months. None? How could we receive none? We'd made a book that we were insanely proud of. We'd been told it was great. How could NO ONE find us appealing? It was a terrible feeling. Instead of examining what I'd eaten, what I'd done to nurture my body, what physical activity might have been too strenuous, I examined OUR LIFE. Did we not have enough friends with young children? I felt funny about asking people for photos of me with their kids, like I was using them as marketing material (I was), and so I didn't pursue that as much as I could have. Were we too old? We didn't look old, but we were in our 40s, having spent the bulk of our 30s trying to get pregnant and failing. Had we waited too long? Were we too boring? Not religious enough at all? Was our house not child-friendly enough? Were our families too devoid of small children, of future cousins to play with? What WAS it that made us get passed over? 

Then we had our first profile call, and it was exciting to be in a position to actually, possibly, be matched and off on our way to a placement. She was due in May, and they wanted the couple chosen to attend appointments, and the situation sounded pretty good -- it wasn't financially driven, which was something that made us feel very, very icky. They were getting their lives together after personal hardship and it wasn't the right time, but they wanted an open adoption, and it sounded like a great situation. But we weren't picked. Which was okay, because now I felt like we'd had an opportunity, of course the first one wouldn't work out, we were realistic, and this was SO MUCH BETTER than infertility treatment! 

But then the next profile opportunity threw me for an utter loop. It was a somewhat last-minute situation, she was due in just a couple weeks, and it had been a blind profile where she was deciding between just a couple books, and ours was one of them. It was a boy, they said. I spent a lot of time in the nursery, holding the blue onesies in my hands, staring down into the empty crib (that sometimes held a cat) and imagining this little boy asleep in that space. I could almost see the indent in the mattress. I visualized it, I meditated on it, and I was like, THIS IS IT. We are going to be parents.

She didn't choose us. It was close, which actually hurt more to hear, but we didn't make the cut. I was gutted. We cried as if we had lost a baby ourselves, which it felt as though we had -- we could envision how our lives would change in such a short time, and we were ready to bring that baby into our home and could SEE that alternate future, and then POOF, it was gone. It echoed every loss we'd sustained up to that point, but in a way it was harder because I DIDN'T do anything that resulted in my two pregnancy losses, it was totally inexplicable and a mystery of nature, but this was someone actively NOT choosing us to parent her child. (In the end it turned out that the situation became fraught and involved the courts and was very sad for everyone involved, so we were glad it didn't work out in retrospect, but still.)

I think that was the first time when we realized that perhaps all of the grief and loss of the infertility treatment leg of our journey was going to make this leg even harder, and maybe it wouldn't work out as we'd hoped.

That profile opportunity was followed by one that was so not right for us on so many levels, again highlighting the complexity of just the DECISIONS related to the adoption process, and we said no, which was hard but necessary. Then summer came and we had to renew our homestudy, and it felt not nearly as hopeful as the first time when we were so filled with hope that THIS WAS OUR PATHWAY to parenthood and it would all be great. Our social worker asked us what we would do if it didn't work out for us, and instead of answering in a way that was purely positive but not at all believing that that could happen, we had a realistic answer and realized that we had a GOOD answer, that our life really was good as is and maybe if it didn't work out it would be okay. More than okay.

Then the second year of being active for adoption was just awful. We were actually picked in a blind profile but the opportunity vanished as quickly as it had become a possibility, and we were notified a month or so later so it wasn't quite the disembowelment it could have been. But then... SILENCE. Nothing again, not a single call or opportunity until January.

I'm not sure which was worse, the complete silence and feeling that we were either a) not on the radar or b) so undesirable that we just would never get picked. It does a number on your self-worth to be in this space. We looked into private adoption, and quickly nixed it as it seemed even more emotionally draining, possibly opening us up to scammers or horrible people who would call just to tell us we were baby stealers, and it just seemed...predatory. I was not comfortable with it at all. But then, January came with a situation where the baby was born yesterday and we were one of a handful of books in play where we'd need to go pick the baby up tomorrow if chosen, and it seemed SO PROMISING. But the quick turnoround between "tomorrow we could be parents!" and "you weren't chosen" broke me. I had to go home from school to sob in private, because I just could not hold myself together anymore at my job. And then February saw a blind profile where the expectant mom was in labor, and we were again not chosen, and I wouldn't have even known about it had I not called with a question about adoption attorneys, and I felt like my soul had just been chipped away to the point of being a broken splinter of a thing.

And then I had my autoimmune eye issue, the prednisone megadose, the side effects mimicking a heart attack, and my breakdown at school.

The End
That is when we ended our parenting journey, that string of failures and disappointments and losses that had finally passed the tipping point of Shit We Could Handle. We ended before our homestudy end date, because we just couldn't handle another call that would NOT be for us, and I was not in a place where I felt my mental health was robust enough to say yes to an opportunity if it came in those last two months, because even a yes is fraught with complexity, and ethical quagmires, and uncertainty, and stress, and the possibility of loss. We just couldn't do it anymore. We'd been so steeped in "It's not IF, it's WHEN!" and all the adoption-related encouragements of "The Waiting is the Hardest Part!" and "Just hang in there, you can't get chosen if you're not in the game!"

But the game was not-so-slowly killing us, me in ways that were clearly manifested and noticeable, and Bryce in ways that he felt he had to hide for my sake, and we were risking the life we KNEW we could have, the life we DID have, for one that may well never have truly materialized.

We were spent, and it was time to wave the white flag and say, "You know, we had a good run."

Recovering from Failure, Rediscovering Hope
It was hard, so hard to feel like I'd given up. Like I'd quit, like I wasn't strong enough, like I didn't have enough chutzpah to be worthy of the motherhood I'd so wanted.

But those are lies.

I was STRONG, because I was walking away from something that I'd wanted so badly, but that had turned downright abusive and was just slamming me into the ground and kicking me in the head.

I was CHOOSING a different life, instead of letting things happen passively. Bryce made this point when the choice was to let our homestudy run out, or end it two months early. He argued that ending it early was empowering, was saying WE ARE DONE WITH LETTING THE UNIVERSE BEAT US UP ON ITS OWN TIME, WE ARE GOING TO TAKE CONTROL AND SAY NO MORE TO THIS BULLSHIT! Bryce is very wise. It WAS empowering.

I was REDEFINING my life -- motherhood had taken up such a large space and had proven unattainable, and I had to figure out who I was if I wasn't going to be a mother. And I was NOT going to be a sad sap. I was going to live the bejeezus out of the life we had, as is, without all the striving and pushing and wheedling something to come that after 8 years just wasn't going to.

I was LETTING GO of the idea that if we'd just hung on, we'd have our child. That IF we'd stayed in the game, we would have "won" and had the living, breathing baby in our nursery, had the floor strewn with board books and play mats, had the holiday card we'd been hoping for, had the tearful shots of us with the baby, holding him or her for the first time, incredulous at our amazing fortune. WHAT IF is destructive. You can go down a whole slew of rabbit holes searching for the alternate pathways that MIGHT have happened IF you made a different choice, IF you waited longer, IF you went with a different agency or type of adoption, IF you'd gone to a different clinic sooner, IF you'd gotten second opinions sooner, IF you'd met your husband earlier in life, IF you'd known that you were infertile when you were younger... NONE OF THAT is helpful. None. For the same reason that hanging on to IVF well past when it was useful because someone got pregnant with their last embryo on their 13th cycle or whatnot was not healthy, so was staying in adoption when it was absolutely clear that we had gone into it already battered, that we were pushing ourselves down a path that at times made us uncomfortable, and that we were simply spent.

I was ACCEPTING that it is okay to say NO. To quit, to give up, to accept the failure we experienced in becoming parents, so that we could thrive, move forward, and start a new life that is decidedly less self-destructive. This acceptance is hard. This acceptance takes work. It means cutting up your "Never Never Never Give Up" fridge magnet into the fangs it is, because that trope is HARMFUL. It is excellent to have perseverance. It is excellent to go for your dreams. It is not excellent to let your dream be a freight train that you are chained to so that you are dragged behind it, a bloody pulpy mess. There is a time when letting go is the best thing. And you have to do it in the face of people who will mourn your inability to stay in the game, who will judge you for "giving up," who will throw a million other methods you might try (but have zero endurance left for) because it is just TOO SAD that you will never be parents.

I was ADVOCATING for the fact that only YOU can make the choice that is right for you, and frankly, no one else's opinions matter. That may sound harsh, but it is incredibly difficult to face the onslaught of people who cannot accept that you are not going to parent, who cannot accept this new reality as something POSITIVE and EMPOWERING. People wanted me to know that I was still young, that I could get pregnant accidentally, they knew people that happened to. I feel a compulsion to retort that I actually don't have a uterine lining anymore, but also only had one tube and our sperm count was super low, so that was likely never going to happen, and besides -- we'd let that possibility go. At this point, we do not WANT some "miracle baby" to arrive because we are resolved, we are happy, we have done so much work to love where we are. I want people to know that resolving childfree is not a tragedy. The path to get there can be, but when you are resolved, in my opinion at least, you have reached a point where you accept where you are and vow to live it to your best ability. As is. And it is difficult when others don't understand this because they can't imagine life without their children, and so see your life as less-than. My life is not less worthy because I don't parent. My life is not worse or better because I don't have kids, it's just different. For the things I lose out on, I gain in other opportunities I wouldn't have if I did have kids.

I'm not saying that I consider myself "recovered." I'm not. I think it's an ongoing process, one that will last in some way for all of my days. I am in a much better place now than a year ago, when I was grappling with the fact that my vision of my future life had forever changed. It's a balance between the sadness of what was lost, and the joys of what is gained by no longer living in limbo, by finding a new purpose in the days ahead. We truly appreciate the moments we have together, after surviving so much grief and loss and turmoil. It can be a fancy dinner out on a Thursday, or a quiet night in reading on our new living room chairs in the quiet with cats on our laps and classical music playing in the background. It can be a two week vacation to the coast of California, or a day with an impromptu 11 mile hike. We have been through so much, and surviving it all with a marriage stronger than we started with is an accomplishment we're proud of.

Failure is difficult but it teaches you of what you're capable of, and makes you reevaluate your priorities. I feel that a true failure would have been continuing to chase down motherhood at personal risk to my health, relationship, overall well-being, sense of self... that would have been awful. I will never understand why NONE of the avenues we tried worked for us. I will never understand HOW we got here, but I am so grateful to be here, on the other side of infertility. I am glad to be done with the struggle, to know that it can work out even if it's not how I'd hoped, that I can live a fulfilling life despite all the difficulties we faced and possibly BECAUSE of surviving all that loss. I am different person now than I was in 2009 when this all started.

I survived failure, I redefined what success meant for me, and it took work and reflection and a lot of support, but IT IS POSSIBLE. It is a work in progress. I am proud of what I've accomplished. I'm proud of letting go in a society that values hanging on at personal cost.

I hope that telling this story gives hope to those who are in the thick of it, who are struggling with choices and losses and a sense of overwhelming failure and batterment. It is not permanent. There are many ways to resolve. You can survive failure and consider yourself a resounding success even if you do not end up with a child. Sometimes letting go and moving forward with life as it is is the best possible option for your sanity, your health, your overall quality of life.

Monday, August 13, 2018

#Microblog Mondays: How We Take Pictures

I was shocked by the sudden death of a friend from school last Thursday -- it was totally unexpected, and he was only 42. It prompted me to go through my photo albums and the very un-archival hiking boot box that houses a host of prints from the 1990s and 2000s.

I found pictures from the prom (he was my date), from our senior class trip, and that was about it. There's more in our yearbook, but in going through all of the photos I realized how much how we take pictures has changed with the advent of the smartphone.

The box is filled with pictures with fingers, fuzzy pictures, over- or under-exposed shots...there's a lot of crap photos in there, because you didn't see them until they were developed. You could totally prank someone with this delayed gratification aspect of film development (the Mister Rogers movie includes a great story of such a prank). Most of the pictures are also of events, of trips or milestones or visits. There were a couple exceptions, pictures of my dorm rooms in college and pictures of my best friend's first apartment, but otherwise the photos all chronicled something concrete, like a graduation, or a trip to the shore.

It's so different now.

Now we are able to chronicle everyday aspects of our lives, because there IS NO LIMIT to the pictures we can take and distribute digitally. I don't have any pictures with fingers in them, or fuzzy pictures, or accidental foot-or-lap pictures that survive, because when I see them on my Google Photos app, I delete them. And usually I see them right after I've taken them, so I get to have a do-over. And that's lovely but also kind of depressing, that we can so carefully curate our paparazzi'd lives with this technology. Don't like the chins? Take another picture and delete that hideous beast. I guess the only exception to this is other people's pictures of you -- the ones that you're tagged in and would never have made your camera roll on your own phone but show up awkwardly on social media.

Initially it made me sad, because I have all these memories of my friend and goofiness in the halls at school and in choir, and bell choir, and behind the stage at musicals...and there is very little photographic evidence of those candid moments. At the same time, it makes the handful of pictures I DO have that much more precious.

It fills me with the urge to print out more of my zillions of pictures of my everyday life, like a yearbook each year of our (entirely fingerless) moments, for us to look back on and hold in our laps and have in our possession before someone passes away.

Rest in peace, my friend. 

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

Monday, August 6, 2018

#Microblog Mondays: Firsts

August is here, and it's the beginning of the back-to-school anxiety in earnest. I have to get in and set up my classroom (I already moved furniture, but I didn't unpack anything); I have to start planning for the social studies class I'm teaching in the 12:1:1 program, I have to make copies and do my professional development reading and IEP reviewing and all the things that I fear I am running out of time to do, and it's only August 6th.

August is also my month of losses. It's when I had the ectopic. It's when I had the miscarriage. In fact, TODAY is the day I found out that my sac was no more, that my numbers were definitely down and there was nobody home in my life-sucking uterus. I didn't clue into this until that stupid "On This Day" feature on social media alerted me to a vague post about bad things happening to good people and I realized, Oh, yeah, that was 6 years ago today. SIX YEARS. Unbelievable.

But that's a first -- I am not as clued in to the exact dates of those horrible days anymore, and it made me sad when I saw it but then I also thought, holy shit I'm so glad we're done with all that. And I moved on with my evening, without the appearance of a single tear.

I also survived my first flights by myself in around ten years, so huzzah for adulting. I managed to make it through my flights without too much heavy breathing and white knuckling, and my last flight last night was not even close to full and there was NO ONE next to me at all in the entire row AND no one behind me. It was a lovely gift to close out a lovely five days with my friend.

And, tonight I flipped my dog in Buti Yoga, for the very first time (under pressure, at least).

I'm kicking ass and taking names. It makes me feel good that while I am definitely still grappling with the grief of never parenting, I am moving forward -- pushing myself to do things because I'll enjoy them, even though they scare me.

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