Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Mental Health Day

I took the day off. I've done nothing productive. I'm writing this from bed.
I woke up, thought Nope, wrote an email to my boss, and went back to sleep.

I got eight hours of sleep last night and I went on to sleep another three. That is not normal.

I've been in bed all day: reading, online window shopping, and watching murder mysteries on tv. I have exerted almost zero energy. I feel a nap coming on. This is not normal.

I'm keeping up with my blog reading, but I notice I'm not writing or commenting as much.

I make sure I sew at least once a week (and it's often more), but it's smaller tasks for shorter amounts of time. And that's okay.

Simply feeding myself several times a day feels like a lot.

I am so tired. Which I've written about a lot on this blog. Enduring infertility is exhausting on every level. Surviving infertility requires a strength on every level that you never knew you had. Plus, there's everything else life throws at you because it doesn't all just stop when you go through life-altering trauma. And now this. 2020. As if the majority of us didn't start out exhausted already...

I can't do much of anything that is affecting me right now. There's too much to list and there's hardly anything I can do about any of it. But I can put myself first. That's something I learned from infertility. I can ask myself reflective questions and do the best I can to meet my needs. I can decrease my expectations and increase my acceptance. Or try to anyway. 

But first I shall nap.



Sunday, October 18, 2020

Happily Ever After

Two recent occurrences reminded me that my life is not an acceptable narrative to some people.

I wanted kids and I don't have them?
Well, it must be my fault. And I'll never be happy without them.

No and no. But I refuse to explain anything to satisfy someone's fleeting questions about my personal life and trauma. It took me years to get where I am today physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially, and geographically. Why should I and how could I possibly satiate their curiosity in five to ten minutes? Especially when my life doesn't have the "right" ending for them.


Instance #1

A co-worker questioned my decisions about adoption and foster care. Regardless of the fact that she barely knows me and knows nothing about my own experiences with adoption and foster care, she not only asked if I had thought about either but she also seemed to pass judgment on the fact that I had done neither. Gross. I just briefly said something along the lines of, "Adoption is a lot harder than people think and the primary goal of foster care is reunification of the biological family." 

"Yes, but, if you really wanted kids..." (Yes, she really said that.) 

I'm done with conversations like that, with people like that. I wasn't there to correct her. We weren't in an educational or therapeutic setting. We were at work where such personal discourse is neither appropriate or likely to be well received. "Yes, but..."

No.

Or rather, I think I gave a dead end, "Hmmm..." out loud.

Conversation over.


Instance #2

My mom asked me if I wanted a Halloween box this year. I'm so glad she asked. She likes to send holiday themed boxes throughout the year. Not to my sisters and me. But to my niece, nephew, and me. It always makes me a little sad because I know she would be sending them to my kids. I like the candy, but I don't know what to do with the little toys and holiday trinkets. 

This year she asked me if I'd like one or if she should give mine to the little girl down the street. I immediately texted back, "Give it to the little girl down the street! She will love it." I also said those boxes always make me a little sad so it's okay to always give them to the little girl down the street. I wasn't sure how my mom would react, but I wanted to be honest.

She wrote back, "I miss sending them to you! But I understand. Phoenix, we love you more than life. You aren't too old to adopt, especially a toddler or a preschooler."

😑

First of all, I think it's weird that she formally addressed me by name in a one-on-one text message. But secondly, I AM too old to adopt. That process takes a long time and, as we all know, it isn't guaranteed. However, thirdly, and most important to me, it is not the responsibility of a baby/toddler/preschooler to make me happy! Putting that expectation on a child is unfair, twisted, and cruel. And I feel like that's what people are saying when they say, "Just adopt/foster!" Adoption and foster care can be extremely wonderful, but they involve very complex issues involving many people's lives.

This is not up for discussion. Definitely not with co-workers. And apparently not with my mom. I'm tired of explaining it to people who don't listen. Why can't people accept my life as it is? I do.

I did not reply. I never brought it back up and neither did she.

Conversation over.


*****

That sucks. Five and a half years after ending fertility treatments and I still get questions and assumptions thrown my way. I understand I'm in a population that's misunderstood and not often talked about, but that doesn't mean it's my responsibility to educate everyone at every encounter. Especially if it's a waste of my time or leaves me feeling drained. 

Not everyone's story ends with motherhood.
But I know you all know that. 

I've been sharing my most private thoughts here for the past four years so I know you all know that I've been working hard, both through grief and also through moving, grad school, divorce, and starting a new career.

It annoys me when I feel like people question my life without children. It makes me mad when they assume that their idea for me to foster or adopt a child is easy, a solution, and something I haven't already put a great amount of time, thought, and research into. I don't like it when people don't let me have my ending to my own story. 


*****

I endured years of infertility. 

The adoption agency I decided on went bankrupt. 

I used to work for a foster care agency and have had extensive training on trauma-informed caregiving strategies. I would have needed an equally committed partner to engage in foster care. My ex-husband did not have that desire or skill set and that was okay and perfectly understandable to me. 

After wanting to be a mother for as long as I could remember, I realized I was not going to be raising children in this lifetime.

Since I didn't have the life I wanted, I decided to want the life I had.
I decided to create a life I wanted to live.

So after taking full advantage of what it had to offer (e.g., in-state tuition, opportunities for clinical rotations), I moved out of the city like I dreamed of doing. I embraced all of the changes, expected and unexpected, that came with that. And I graduated, passed the board exam, and now practice in my new profession. 

I love it. I spend my work days helping others. I live in a warm home with good food and a great boyfriend. And after a lifetime of searching, I finally found my medium as an artist: quilting. 

It may not look like what others expect for me, but I worked hard to create this life for myself.

I like my happily ever after. 



(Picture from The Paper Bag Princess, Story by Robert Munsch, Art by Michael Martchenko, 1980)


Sunday, October 11, 2020

Four Years Here

I started writing this blog because I needed an outlet. I also needed connection with other women like me. I read TTC boards for many years. Then I switched to reading IF blogs for a couple of years. Then I decided to start writing myself. 

I was very nervous about writing on the internet, especially in a public space. But I was also out of ideas and I desperately needed an outlet where I connected with women whom I understood, who understood me, and who helped me understand myself better. 

It is more difficult than anyone can ever imagine to be a woman in this world who wanted to be a mother and raise children but didn't get to.

So, four years later, this little blog and I are still here... Chugging along... 

The immense personal and global changes that have occurred since my first post here were unpredictable. For me anyway. I did not foresee my divorce or the pandemic. However, my experiences with infertility helped prepare me to deal with both. Life sure as shit doesn't go as planned.

So in reflection and celebration of four years of blogging my innermost personal thoughts and experiences in what I hope always remains an anonymous, yet relatable, space, here are four of my favorite posts from my first year of blogging. None of these posts garnered very many reads, but I like them anyway so I am resharing.

*****

This super short post ends with an all-time favorite quote of mine. 

This post recaps my 2016 and reminds me of how far I've come.

I just plain like this post. I hope I never stop running my mouth and speaking my mind.

This post about an article I read on resilience really applies to the present moment.

*****

If you are a reader, thank you very much for reading.

If you are a fellow blogger, thank you very much for writing.

Thank you, thank you, thank you all. From the bottom of my healing heart.

💜

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Taking Things Down a Notch

I need to slow down, do less, and rest more.
I don't want to maintain the level at which I've been operating. So I'm going to stop. :) 

I am going to lower my expectations. For myself and for others.
We cannot all be operating at 100% like everything is normal.

If I am this stressed out and tired, how do my students feel? Their parents? My co-workers? 
We are all freaking exhausted.

Yes, my bills still need to get paid. Yes, I need to go to work. Yes, I am thankful for my job. 

But no, no, no to most everything else and to anything extra right now. I can't do it. I cannot.
There's already too much to process on a daily basis. 

So here's my daily intention for this week:
Wake Up. Show Up. Be compassionate. Give 70%. Go Home.

I woke up early this morning to go grocery shopping before the store got crowded. I didn't really feel like it, but I am so glad I went. Now I have food for the week. I have housing. I have a job.
My basic needs are met. 

For this week, I am going to wake up and show up.
But I will not give away all of the energy that I have. I need a lot of it for myself.

Thank you, infertility, for my hard-earned understanding of how to take care of myself.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

An Announcement at Work

I was at work a couple of weeks ago when a teacher stopped by my office to let me know there were donuts in the break room. It was good timing because I was hungry. 

(Disclaimer: I'm not eating food indoors with other people at the moment, but I decided it was low risk to go grab a donut and eat it outside real quick.) 

I went down to the break room and saw several boxes of a variety of delicious, decadent donuts. I was surprised because I was expecting glazed donuts, maybe chocolate iced at most. These donuts were fancier than your usual box from the grocery store. I surveyed the situation and decided on a cake donut with chocolate icing topped with pecans. Then I read the sign on the table: "You 'donut' have to ask; Baby Smith is due in March."

And you know what my first thought was? Honestly?

"Oh, that's a good way to do that."

That was my first thought. My first thought was so practical. I thought, well, that's a good way to let everyone at work know at once. Cute even. Considering we're at an elementary school. And it really was a good selection of donuts.

I thought for a second about how much an announcement like that would have caught me off guard, hurt me, and ruined my day just a couple of years ago but now it didn't. I'm glad for that. 

I don't even eat donuts all that often, but I definitely enjoyed that one. 


Sunday, September 20, 2020

Roller Coaster Living

 I've got a lot on my mind. Unfortunately, not much of it is positive. Let's jump in, shall we?

  1. I had a very upsetting phone call with my mom yesterday. We were talking about books and recipes and whatnot. I try to keep the topics pretty neutral because I don't need her criticizing me, lecturing me, or otherwise invalidating my thoughts, feelings, and/or experiences. But I couldn't do it yesterday. I couldn't do the surface stuff anymore. When she asked if I had any upcoming time off, I asked her if she was asking whether I had any upcoming time off or if I was going to be traveling during the pandemic. That was the opening into a conversation about what is really going on in the world.

    Long story short, we have completely different ideas about what taking precautions looks like and I don't think I'll be seeing anyone I'm related to anytime this year or even next. It's angering and sad. I thought it was a decent enough conversation and that she was listening as best as she is able to, but then she texted me later in the day about needing to see me for Thanksgiving. In her exact words she wrote, "There are worse things than Covid--like not seeing your kids!" 

    Pause. Pause.
    Let that sink in.

    My own mother disregarded my entire experience with infertility with one single statement. 

    I am so pissed. I can give her a list of a lot of things that are harder than not seeing your kids THAT YOU GOT TO HAVE AND RAISE. (And, yes, getting Covid IS one those harder things... So is not getting to have and raise your children at all.)


  2. My next point is somewhat related. It's about Energy Vampires. Unfortunately, I have a new co-worker that prompted me to find an old book I'd read, pull it from the shelf, dust it off, and begin reading it again. The book is wonderful and it has helped me a lot. It's entitled "The Empath's Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People" by Dr. Judith Orloff. She starts chapter 5, called "Protecting Yourself from Narcissists and Other Energy Vampires," by stating, "Energy vampires are attracted to the openness and loving hearts of empaths. Sensitive people need to be prepared for them." Yes, yes we do!

    I'm encountering a new-to-me phenomenon: people who are jealous of my hard work and want to steal my happiness and personal peace of mind. But again, I have infertility to thank for my new awareness of these predatory behaviors. Now I can see it happening before I'm already entrenched in a friendship. I know the counselor that I saw for a year and a half during my failed fertility treatments and my subsequent recovery from them would be so proud of me and my hard-earned progress.

    I noticed the "energy vampire" activity because I didn't feel good when I was around this person. Like, my stomach physically hurt. Then I would be extremely tired after being in the same room with them for an extended period of time. This person was constantly questioning my life choices (not having kids, not adopting, getting divorced, moving to this small town, etc.) and I thought it was extremely weird. I mean, I just met this person! Fortunately, I am so confident in everything I've done in the last 5.5 years of my life to get to this point that my confidence in my life decisions is unshakeable. Maybe this is the first time I have actually felt secure in my lifetime... Whatever it is, her questions began to really annoy me. They were tinged with judgement and I wondered if her obvious unhappiness was just as obvious to her. Regardless, I'm keeping this co-worker at a safe distance and reviewing protection strategies for myself from this wonderful book that I'm revisiting.


  3. I'm having surgery tomorrow. Yes, the saying is true. When it rains, it pours...

    (But I had to have a covid test before I could be approved for surgery, so I'm happy to know that I am not, as of this point, an asymptomatic carrier walking around and spreading the virus. I am really glad to know that.)

    It's not the hysterectomy procedure that I scheduled for early this summer and then canceled due to covid stress and moving across the state. I met with my new doctor. He's male, which was not my preference, but I instantly liked him so I decided to stick with him. He has a great bedside manner, listened to all of my concerns, and answered all of my questions. Together we decided that a LEEP procedure would be the next best step. He will receive a pathology report after the procedure and I will either be all clear or then we will schedule a hysterectomy. Hopefully, tomorrow's procedure removes all of the unhealthy cells!

So, in my humble opinion, that's enough for now. A somewhat estrangement from my family (Is it an estrangement if the other people don't even realize?), majorly negative vibes from someone at work, and a full blown procedure with general anesthesia tomorrow. 

It's all right. I'm not going anywhere. I'm resilient and strong. 
This world can't knock me down. I'm along for the ride!




Sunday, September 13, 2020

Feeling Gaslit Again

Hello and Happy New Week. How are you? How are you really

Don't judge; just notice. Then reflect.

How are you taking care of yourself? How are you being productive? How are you having fun? 

(Yes! Getting out of bed, taking a shower, feeding yourself, and watching tv all definitely counts at this moment in time. You don't have to accomplish anything major. We cannot save the world right now, but we can somewhat save ourselves.)

*****


Please let me draw another parallel between my experience with infertility and this pandemic:

I feel like I'm going crazy.


With infertility, it felt like a constant barrage of judgment from others. What are you sad about? You have all this free time! Think of all the money you will save. You can travel! Kids are a lot of work; you don't really have a clue what you're asking for (despite the fact that I had spent almost 10 years in the classroom working with everyone else's kids all at the same time, not on an individual basis like parents get to do). So many people refused to tolerate or even allow space for my sadness; it felt like no one was acknowledging my loss. I was being gaslit by friends, family, and society as a whole. 

And now we are all enduring a pandemic. And society is gaslighting me again. If it weren't for my boyfriend and fellow bloggers, I would think I was the only person taking the pandemic seriously. 

I am currently going to work because my school district is providing classes and services on campus for students who choose in-person school. That alone freaks me out. And I will be honest, I am one of the few that consistently wears a mask all day. Everyone else takes them off as much as they can. (District policy is you can remove your mask if you're more than 6 feet away from students. This lets teachers lecture at the front of the room so students can clearly see their mouth and facial expressions.) I'm starting a new job in a new town and I am the Weird Mask Girl. It's not that I think I will get it here. It really is a small town in a remote area. It's that there's a GLOBAL PANDEMIC going on and the virus doesn't care about anything. The virus just spreads. I don't want to get comfortable because, quite frankly, it's just not safe yet. But I definitely feel some hater vibes from a couple of co-workers and random strangers around town when I venture into the grocery store (I've been twice at 5:30 in the morning) or the convenience store (more expensive, but more convenient so I've been going once or twice a week).

Then I call my mom for our weekly chat. (It's a new thing and it is working out well. For those of you that don't know, my relationship with my mom is challenging but I want her in my life.) And I learn that my aunt is there visiting. Even my family is living like there aren't more than 6 million infected Americans! My oldest sister went and visited my mom two weeks ago. Her visit marked the FOURTH state she had been in in the past month. And two of those states have high positivity rates. I mean, she voluntarily got on a plane for a vacation ffs!! And then I call my mom and learn her sister/my aunt is now there visiting. Way to contain the potential spread, everyone...

What the hell is going on? Why is my own family disregarding basic precautions? Why do they think I am the unreasonable one for going to the grocery store at the crack of dawn and for refusing to go eat at a restaurant? For my family, this is typical though. I'm the cRaZy one, the overly cautious one, the one that's "too sensitive." But damn, in the middle of a pandemic??

I feel like, yet again, my family and society are gaslighting me. I feel like the world around me is trying to operate like it is pre-March 2020 and it dumbfounds me. It blows my mind. People really, really don't get it. And then I remember enduring infertility with very, very little support.

I guess people just can't stand to be uncomfortable.

*****

I didn't know the skills I learned while figuring out how to cope with infertility would serve me so well during this extremely stressful time in our world. It's hard to say I'm thankful for infertility because it took from me what I desperately wanted: parenting and motherhood, but now that I am many years removed from the direct experience and I have worked incredibly hard on grieving and creating a life I want to live, I can appreciate who I am and what my life is post-infertility. 

*****

As for me, I am doing... Okay. Pretty well probably. I require a lot of sleep these days so I go to bed early. But I am trying my hardest to learn my new job and do a good job while I'm at work all day. Then I come home, eat, and rest. On the weekends I sew. I am so grateful I found something that puts me in the flow where I can forget about the world for a bit. And then when I'm done, I have a comfy quilt to use while reading everyone's blogs. :)

Enjoy your week everyone! 💚💙💜

Take care of yourself, ignore the gaslighting, and do something you enjoy no matter how small.


    I finished my fifth quilt! 

I used: 
      • 10" squares, Lucky Day by MoMo for Moda Fabrics
      • 10" squares, White Paper Grunge by BasicGrey also for Moda
      • Miss Rosie's Quilt Co. Cake Mix Recipe #6 piecing paper
      • Quilters Dream Orient quilt batting. 

The precut fabric and piecing paper make it so easy! 

You put a piece of paper on top of two fabric squares and literally sew on the dotted line and cut on the solid line. You end up with great looking quilt blocks! For quilting, I did basic stitch-in-the-ditch around the blocks and tried decorative stitches on the borders for the first time. 

I just learned how to quilt last year so if it's something you are curious about, you can totally do it! It's not a hobby that requires perfection. Well, not the way I do it. I'm a sloppy quilter and will be for years because I am learning. ;) But quilting can be very relaxing.